The federal government is considering making black boxes mandatory in all new cars -- begging the question, is Big Brother watching?

Quick answer: No. At least not through black boxes.

As a guest on CBS This Morning points out, black boxes only record a few seconds before a crash occurs. They can tell crash investigators whether or not the driver was wearing his or her seatbelt, whether or not the car was speeding, if the driver hit the brake or gas pedal, and some other important crash details. It's not like an airplane's black box, which records conversations between the pilot and co-pilots and every action that's taken during a flight.

Still, if you're worried about being watched, you should buy an older car. A much older car. One without GPS maps, infotainment systems, an electric toll transponder, or is an electric car.

Most of the time, "people don't know it's happening," Dorothy Glancy, a law professor at Santa Clara University in California who specializes in transportation and privacy, told USA Today recently. "People should be able to decide whether they want it collected or not."

All those fancy electronic doodads can tattle on drivers. Electronic toll payment devices are one of the worst offenders, because they track when you've passed through tollbooths. Sometimes they've been used in divorce proceedings to prove one of the spouses was cheating.

For now, if police really want to track a driver, they have to slap a GPS unit onto the car to track its movements. Most of the time, police need a warrant to put GPS devices on cars, but sometimes they don't pay attention to those rules.

Still, the black boxes are the least of your worries if you are concerned about being tracked.


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