In November, the federal government passed a massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and, like all bills drafted by the federal government, politicians snuck in countless items that had nothing to do with "infrastructure." One of the insidious additions to the the bill makes it a felony if crypto traders don't collect personal information on the hundreds or thousands of transactions they conduct every day.
But this is just the beginning. This bill affects far more folks than just crypto traders. Deep within the bill, hidden under thousands of pages of government speak, is a little measure lawmakers are touting as the solution to drunk driving.
While no one thinks it is okay to endanger the lives of others on the road while driving drunk, under this measure, according to former US representative Bob Barr, government is mandating the installation of a "kill switch" on your vehicle.
As part of the passage of the infrastructure bill, it is now mandatory for auto manufacturers to install "safety" devices that “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired.”
By 2026 the kill switch will be mandated on every new car sold in the United States.
While everyone would like to stop DUIs, if we examine the language of the mandate, it becomes rather worrisome. In computer jargon, "passively" means that this system will always be monitoring the driver. It will have to monitor your normal driving habits to determine whether or not you are impaired.
As there are no set standards for idiosyncrasies behind the wheel, the idea of what and what doesn't constitute "impaired" driving is entirely subjective. If impairment is detected, according to the legislation, vehicle operation will be "prevented or limited."
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The legislation also mentions monitoring the blood alcohol content of the driver, yet there is no detail on how this would be done. But perhaps the most worrisome aspect of this madness is that it will be an "open" system, containing at least one backdoor to allow authorized third parties to remotely access the system's data at any time.
As Barr points out,
This is a privacy disaster in the making, and the fact that the provision made it through the Congress reveals — yet again — how little its members care about the privacy of their constituents.
The lack of ultimate control over one’s vehicle presents numerous and extremely serious safety issues; issues that should have been obvious to Members of Congress before they voted on the measure.
For example, what if a driver is not drunk, but sleepy, and the car forces itself to the side of the road before the driver can find a safe place to pull over and rest? Considering that there are no realistic mechanisms to immediately challenge or stop the car from being disabled, drivers will be forced into dangerous situations without their consent or control.
On top of these privacy issues, it opens the door to unscrupulous police actions and warrantless searches. Will a driver's algorithm be accessible by police just as a license plate can be read into their scanners? What about insurance companies? Will they have access to this data?
While many folks — in the "if you're not breaking the law, you have nothing to worry about" crowd — are touting this as a means of protecting law abiding citizens, exactly what constitutes "law abiding" is a shifting goal post in the land of the free.
The slippery slope brought on by this mandate has far too many "what if" scenarios to even get into. But rest assured, "safety" will certainly take a back seat to the police state.
In typical American political fashion, this kill switch was not debated on the House or Senate floor — or anywhere for that matter. Instead, it was born in backroom deals and slipped in to the infrastructure bill whether you like it or not.