California’s In-Vehicle Camera Privacy Law Approved by Governor

California’s In-Vehicle Camera Privacy Law Approved by Governor

Atsushi Ikeda, the founder and vice president of a Japanese club for Tesla owners, operating a touchscreen display on the dashboard of his Tesla Model S in Tokyo on Jan. 27, 2023. (Yuichi Yamazaki/AFP via Getty Images)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

10/17/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

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With in-vehicle cameras becoming more common in new vehicles, concerns over how pictures, videos, and audio data are used by manufacturers has left some consumer privacy advocates concerned. But after a multi-year effort, California has passed a new law restricting how such information can be used or shared.
Senate Bill 296, authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), received Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature Oct. 13 and will now mandate that dealers inform customers of cameras inside their vehicles, prohibits sharing footage with third parties without consent, and enables the California Attorney General or any district attorney to fine dealers or manufacturers up to $2,500 per incident for violations.
“Increasingly in society today, we find ourselves being recorded or surveilled with no idea how the images are being used. This erosion of privacy is now happening inside our own cars,” Mr. Dodd said in a September Assembly analysis of the bill.
He additionally said the bill—now law—will “give the consumer more control over their personal information.”
Under the new law, pictures and videos may only be shared with third parties, when necessary, for diagnostics, repairs, and vehicle improvements without owner consent.
Other exemptions include when such data is needed in certain accidents including those that require federal investigations or reporting to emergency services.
The new law comes after viral videos on social media were shared by Tesla employees, showing videos captured unbeknown to the owner, which sparked a push for legislation to address such “invasion of privacy,” according to various lawmakers in a recent bill analysis.
A recent report in September by the Mozilla Foundation—a nonprofit promoting an open and accessible internet—revealed that 25 major car brands received what they consider failure markings for consumer privacy.
According to the researchers, popular car brands such as BMW, Tesla, Toyota, Subaru, and many more “can collect deeply personal data such as sexual activity, immigration status, race, facial expressions, weight, health and genetic information, and where you drive,” researchers wrote. Nissan was reportedly the worst for privacy invasions.
The data comes from sensors, microphones, cameras, and phones or devices drivers use to connect to their cars, which are then sometimes sold to third parties or used by car brands to learn about driver’s behaviors, the researchers said.
The sponsor of the bill, Consumer Federation of California—a nonprofit advocacy organization for consumers rights and protections—said in a press release following the governor’s approval that the new law comes on the heels of a similar bill by former Sen. Bob Wieckowski, which was vetoed last year, and protects consumers from the unwanted sharing of their personal information.
Tesla cars recharge at a Tesla Supercharger station in San Francisco on Feb. 15, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Tesla cars recharge at a Tesla Supercharger station in San Francisco on Feb. 15, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“Independent experts have made it crystal clear that one of the worst areas of consumer privacy is caused by the free flow of data between auto manufacturers and their business and technology partners. … We thank Senator Dodd and former Senator Wieckowski for their efforts to protect consumers in this important area,” said Robert Herrell, the executive director of the nonprofit.
Mr. Herrell told The Epoch Times he was pleased the bill was finally approved, after minor amendments were made to the previous bill.
The amendments make it clear that videos and images can be shared by car manufacturers when needed for improving and updating a vehicle’s safety system.
“Last year the veto we think was largely driven by the auto manufacturers and their big tech partners … We appreciate the governor’s signature of it, especially after his veto last year,” he told The Epoch Times.
TechNet—a network of tech companies advocating for technology-friendly policies—was originally opposed, but switched their position to neutral after the bill amendments.
“We appreciate Senator Dodd’s willingness to engage with us on SB 296 and address our concerns. That is why we are neutral on the bill. We support the bill’s intent to protect consumers’ data but it must be done in a way that allows companies to continue to innovate and improve vehicle safety features to make our roads safer,” Dylan Hoffman, TechNet executive director for California and the Southwest, told The Epoch Times.
The new law becomes effective Jan. 1.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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