Technology has progressed rapidly in the past 25 years. It is now possible for governments and private entities to capture more data on what once were private activities.
While the federal government has attempted to address some of the resulting issues regarding intrusions into people’s personal space, public policy has had a difficult time keeping up with technology and safeguarding privacy.
On June 10, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H. AMDT. 815 to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. This amendment would prohibit the U.S. Department of Transportation from using any federal funds to “acquire a camera for the purpose of collecting or storing vehicle license plate numbers.”
According to Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) it “gives states and local governments a one-year pause on purchasing these cameras until Congress can deal with the issue more fully.”
If implemented without the change, the THUD appropriations bill could have impacted motorcyclists by allowing public agencies – and the private contractors who actually collect the data – to continue to install cameras which, as Rep. Fleming said on the House floor, can “reconstruct intimate details of our lives, who we visit, where we worship, from whom we seek counseling, and how we might legally and legitimately protest the actions of our own government.”
This information could be used by insurance companies to justify not paying a claim or charging higher premiums – or for denying coverage to veteran riders. Capturing license plate information and comparing time stamps could lead to speeding tickets being issued via mail.
Historical riding information describing individual riding trends – potentially irrelevant to the case – could be used to portray a motorcyclist in a negative light in civil or criminal proceedings.
Thankfully, the House version would, hopefully, give Congress time to find a solution.
Traditionally, data privacy concerns have not been an issue for motorcyclists. Going forward, the riding community will have to be aware of privacy issues and actively work to ensure our privacy rights are protected.
You may recall, earlier this year a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate that did not grant motorcyclists the same ownership afforded to other motorists of data collected by event data recorders. Anyone could have accessed information on your bike.
While the bill was amended to include motorcyclists in a markup of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the original wording demonstrates that riders are not often considered when drafting legislation that affects motorcyclists.
This was not the case for H.R. 4745. Not only did motorcyclists win by securing passage of U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg’s (R-Mich.) amendment to continue the ban on federal agencies lobbying state governments, all motorcyclists also gain additional privacy protections from Fleming’s amendment.
Rest assured, the AMA will remain on the lookout for important legislation and regulations that may affect your right to ride.