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Black Day for Privacy

Most of my cars are old -- and I plan to keep it that way. My VW camper is a '72, my 928 is from 1980 and the Land Cruiser shipped from Japan my junior year of high school is from 1978. The rig that gets the most miles is either the '95 Bronco with more rust than a Bering Sea wreck or a '95 Cadillac sedan.

Despite the high cost of gas, it looks like I'm going to have to keep these crates running. That because in a few years our precious government may well mandate that all our new cars have black boxes that will tell exactly what we were doing when an incident occurred. If you want this intrusion out of your own car, you just broke the law!

It always starts relatively small. But something like this can grow. With GPS and wireless there is the ability to not just track and spy, but to control your vehicle. And once you give up power can you ever really get it back?

The best thing about most of these old cars? There are no expensive power windows fixes and I can still actually find (and replace) the alternator.

What is your favorite old car and what should the government, car companies and insurance firms do with these shiny black boxes? Answers always welcome and shared at

Posted by Doug Barney on 04/23/2012 at 1:19 PM

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 Ben

Canadians would be affected if online anti-piracy laws proposed south of the border get passed by Congress.

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 JC Seattle, WA

Control. It's what governments do. Governments loathe the individual freedom embodied by the automobile. They got us to be dependent on the car duriing Eisenhower's interstate highway program and like the Internet, they resent the freedom it inadvertently encouraged. Yes, there are some personal benefits to the black boxes but like air bags, they should be options, not requirements. Nice to see that the gov't is so concerned about our wellbeing that they'll tack on even more to the price of a car at a time when the economy is still reeling from their last debacle. That will surely stimulate auto sales. Not! I'll keep my 96 Jimmy until it dies and then replace it with something similar. To JO from Norway, we don't run many diesels in the US 'cause the gov't is in the way won't let the market drive their use (pardon the pun) And, glad to see that you read Doug! Keep up the great work!

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 Brian Cook Fort Worth

It is a travisty that the government can get away with listening on our cell, and wired phones. It is all in the name of anti-terrorism. That still does not make it right that they are diong this. installing a Black Box in my car or Motorcycle should never be allowed. Next thing you know they are shutting down your vehicle if you are over the speedlimit by 5 MPH. I have a 71 VW Sqareback and a 75 Beetle. I also have a new truck but the old VW's are fun. No computer to break, just valve adjustment and oil changes. Good article.

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 Jo Norway

Nothing beats the economy of old cars. The less electronic and electrical gadgets there is in them the better they are. I used to drive a 89 Ford Clubwagon, imensly comfortable to drive. It went mile after mile, but in the end the roadtax on the highway to work got to high. It was simply to heavy, but apart from that with a diesel engine that didn't matter for me. It gave me some 23 MPG after disconecting the aircon. Now I drive a 83 Mercedes 300TDT, also a diesel, that gives me some 30MPG. That I can live with considering the low owners cost. Why don't you use diesel in family cars in the US? For black boxes, well my wife drives a brand new Hyundai, and if that got stolen it would be nice with an GPS tracking system to get it back. But the insurance company has a deal with Hyundai, so if that happens, they actually give me a brand new car. So now we don't bother if its recovered or not. Its the insurance company who has that interest. What realy freaks me out is the electronic level in that car, how will that work in 15 years time...

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 John Canberra Australia

The question is – why are the manufacturers putting in these “black boxes”. The answer is – because they have no choice. #### There are two basic reasons. #### 1. The western world used to have a degree of honesty and integrity such that in an accident the person at fault would admit fault and take the consequences (also witnesses were prepared to stand up and testify), meaning that there were few instances of disagreement and so no need for independent information. #### 2. Historically, manufacturers of products were never sued. Where the individual misused the product then the individual accepted responsibility for their actions and therefore accepted damage to them as having been self-inflicted. More recently, possibly resulting from a spate of dangerous products (especially in the vehicle industry) the tendency has been to sue someone (anyone) for damages regardless of personal culpability (“I blame the car because it went too fast, even though I knew the speed limit and the speed I was doing”), and of course the vehicle industry has plenty of money so they can afford to pay (regardless of the justice of the situation). #### From the above, is it any wonder that the vehicle industry has chosen to protect itself by gathering data that can help them direct the blame to the appropriate location? #### Also, I imagine your government, which is so interested in individual privacy and freedom (not!!! – unless you have lots of power/money and are willing to pay for it), is interested in tracking you all. I mean – you don’t really believe you live in a free society do you?

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 Sue NH

Big trucks have had these boxes for a long time. In a crash, there is a ton of data. In a crash with a car, the driver of the car has no data for evidence - good or bad.

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 Joel Cochran Staunton, VA

One of my favorite topics! I drive old cars because they are cheap. Yes, I pay more for repairs, but no car payments and dirt cheap insurance more than make up for that. With a little searching and some patience, I've always been able to find good used cars for very little money. My newest car is my wife's 99 Dodge Caravan. My daughter drives a 96 Buick Rivera which is quite distinctive among her teen peers. My daily driver (known around the mid-atlantic as "The Community Cruiser") is a 96 Lincoln Towncar. Not as bad on the gas mileage as you might think since I mostly stick to highway driving. Before that I had a 91 Chevy Caprice: there just isn't anything like a big American sedan. I'd tell you what they should do with the black boxes, but you wouldn't be allowed to print it.

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