The Government's Newest Black Box: Charging You For Invading Your Privacy

Lincoln Brown
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Posted: May 03, 2012 12:01 AM

If you have a spare minute, you might want to swing by the website of the Taxpayer’s Protection Alliance. It’s a nifty watchdog group that hasn’t gotten nearly the press it should. In addition to building the Museum of Government Waste, the Alliance has currently set its sights on Senate Bill 1813 which is brought to you courtesy of Barbara Boxer. The TPA has set up a page on its website urging people to take a pledge to oppose SB1813.

By way of a brief review, SB1813, which incidentally allows the IRS to revoke your passport, also mandates that vehicles built after 2015 must have an Event Data Recorder or “Black Box” as factory standard.

Most of the articles opposing the bill have focused on the Orwellian aspects of the bill such as this piece by Eric Peters from The American Spectator. Peters paints a chilling picture of Big Brother now assuming the role of Traffic-Cop-in-Chief.

As unnerving as it all sounds, the question that has been rolling around my brain isn’t whether or not a shadow agency deep below the Washington Monument will be tracking your trips to the local supermarket, casino or speakeasy, but how will this grow government and how will we pay for it?

If the bill passes, and given the current incarnation of Congress, I suspect it shall, and the boxes become mandatory, someone will have to get the government contract to manufacture them. Since government contracts are expensive, and since this administration has a penchant for lending the helping hand of economic development to its capitalist cronies, I have to believe that somewhere, there is a new Solyndra, it’s hour come round at last slouching towards Washington to be born. And the ensuing legislative fight over whose district will get the new company will be at the very least interesting to watch.

Since the new black boxes will be installed at the factory, an entirely new group of auto workers will need to be created whose only job will be to install the boxes. I’ll leave you to connect the dots there.

That cost will in all likelihood be passed on to the consumer, and will show up somewhere near the bottom of the sticker price, much like the “recycling fee” appears on your bill when you buy new tires.

But the amount you pay to buy or lease would only be the start. It wasn’t long after the use of radar to monitor vehicular speed came into its own that someone came up with the idea of radar detectors. And so the advent of the mandatory black box will be followed by a cottage industry that will manufacture the kits to remove, disable or falsify the contents therein.

Which will in turn lead to a whole new layer of government regulations designed to neutralize those who would neutralize the black box, and of course that will fall under yet another to-be-created government agency, with a set of yet-to-be-created power and technology to monitor and seize your black box. Spot checks, or downloads will become necessary to ensure that you aren’t trying to circumvent the system. That of course will be done under the banner of checking accident statistics, fuel efficiency, and auto safety. And all that data will have to be analyzed stored and update periodically.

This all amounts to many people to be paid, and many regulations to be written. None of this will be free, and none of it will be cheap. New departments will have to be created or old ones will have to be enlarged; begging the question: who will be in charge of this electronic rodeo?

There are a number of agencies that could take on the job, but I envision this email arriving in my inbox one day:

Dear Mr. Brown

Our latest records from your Event Data Recorder (EDR) indicate that in August, 2015, you drove 27.3 miles over your monthly average as indicated by the Government Mileage Index (GMI).

Your penalties are as follows:

$27.50 Mileage Overage Tax

$35.45 Highway Use Tax

$150.00 Carbon Footprint Assessment

$50.00 Data Processing Fee

Please remit the sum of  $262.95 to the Internal Revenue Service no later than September 5th 2015. Please make your check or money order payable to the Department of the Treasury.