Road Safety, Privacy Should Not Be Adversaries: Examining Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act

In-cab cameras are equipped to capture pivotal moments to help us better understand why crashes and/or near misses happen.

Photo: Automotive Fleet

In our continued pursuit of safer roads and protecting lives, we are confronted with a critical question: How can we best find the balance between embracing effective innovations in road safety technology, while giving ample consideration to the very real and important privacy concerns that these same technologies often raise for commercial drivers?

As the executive director of Together for Safer Roads (TSR), a non-profit organization committed to leveraging private-sector technology, data, and expertise to prevent traffic crashes globally, I find myself at the center of this issue, working to foster safety in fleet trucking through cross-sector partnerships.

This is most evident as we look to integrate the life-saving potential of in-cab camera technology into fleets and are confronted with a variety of obstacles, often exacerbated by the implications of certain privacy laws.

What is the Biometric Information Privacy Act?

At the heart of this complex landscape lies an instructive example: the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in Illinois.

Designed with the intent of safeguarding individual privacy, this legislation has inadvertently also created an environment where we are seeing an ever-increasing number of legal challenges against companies providing pivotal, third-party road safety technology.

The purview of BIPA extends to encompass biometric data, a category that includes facial characteristics captured by in-cab cameras. While practical in intent, this has sowed seeds of doubt and mistrust, hampering the very adoption of technology that is helping to advance road safety in new and important ways.

Role of In-Cab Cameras

The intersection of BIPA and in-cab cameras therefore underscores a unique challenge in the execution and balance of privacy, road safety, and the larger complex ecosystem of relevant stakeholders. 

In-cab cameras, aptly termed the “unbiased witnesses” of our modern roads, are equipped to capture pivotal moments to help us better understand why crashes and/or near misses happen.

By capturing and analyzing driver behavior and contextual external factors, fleet managers are provided with a wealth of critical data points and potential insights, information which can be used to subsequently create effective and personalized coaching strategies; an approach with a ripple effect on the entire safe road ecosystem, including enhanced driver performance and fewer crashes, injuries, and fatalities as well as potential reductions in insurance costs.

Road safety and privacy should not and need not be adversaries; they can coexist through innovation and nuanced legislation. Whether you are a commercial driver on the road each and every day, a legislator crafting privacy-related laws, or one of the millions of other stakeholders utilizing our nation’s highways, this issue ultimately affects us all.

Laws like BIPA, when applied in commercial driving situations, can lead to outcomes that are unworkable and ultimately frustrate the ability of professional drivers to have access to proven, safety technologies such as in-cab cameras.

In-cab cameras mean safer drivers, which means safer roads. The challenge for us all is to help create and inform privacy safeguards that in application do not remove these valuable tools from the road.

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