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    MSNBC: Digital evidence becoming central in criminal cases

    MSNBC reports on the issue of digital evidence from automobiles’ “black boxes” in court cases:

    If you are unfortunate enough to land in court after a serious automobile accident, the star witness against you may not be an eyewitness or even a human being. It could be your car. […]

    Typically, [driving] information is collected by a vehicle’s “event data recorder,” or EDR, a computer module that is often compared to the “black box” on a commercial airliner. Among other things, EDRs are capable of recording a number of driver behaviors, including brake application, steering, speed at time of impact in the event of a crash and whether the driver and passengers were using seatbelts.

    Such information is primarily intended to help improve federal safety standards, but increasingly it is being used in court cases in which vehicles were involved in a serious accident or the commission of a crime. […]

    Among the drivers of that anticipated growth are new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations that take effect next year.

    The rules do not require EDRs – already in use in more than 85 percent of U.S. vehicles – but they mandate that in cars that have them, the devices must capture and preserve at least 15 types of crash data, including pre-crash speed, engine throttle, changes in forward velocity and airbag deployment times. And one day, the agency noted in its final rule, they may even play a role in getting emergency medical service quickly dispatched to the scene of an accident by automatically sending a 911 alert. […]

    Even now, however, such information could be cross-checked with information from devices like cellphones and GPS units to build what could be an air-tight court case.

    “Now you’re in a situation where, if someone has the time and expertise, they can say you drove from here to there at this speed, you parked at Whole Foods, here’s what you bought, then you got back in your car and drove here and made a call to this number,” said Dean Gonsowski, eDiscovery counsel with Clearwell, which is part of the security firm Symantec. “… It’s staggering how much information can be collected.”

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