Can My Infotainment System Be Accessed By Law Enforcement After an Accident in Missouri?

Vehicles today are equipped with advanced technologies that serve many purposes, including function, safety, information and entertainment. While many modern vehicle technologies are designed to prevent accidents, others can distract a driver and even contribute to a car crash. All the while, the technology is recording and storing information about the driver that can be sent to the car manufacturer and third parties. In some scenarios, law enforcement can access this information and use it to determine fault.

Can an Infotainment System Help Identify Fault in a Car Accident?

Yes, a newer vehicle’s infotainment system may potentially be accessed by law enforcement and turned into admissible evidence of fault in a car accident case in Missouri. For several years, car manufacturers have been collecting consumer data through digital platforms installed in vehicles, typically in the form of multimedia screens known as infotainment systems. This information can be vast, especially if consumers connect their personal devices and smartphones to the car. The technology can keep track of when the driver is using his or her phone, accessing the infotainment system, and more.

The fine print in the terms and conditions when drivers agree to use infotainment systems typically permits the manufacturer to not only collect this information but share it with third parties – even for years after a subscription for connected services expires. For example, Toyota’s privacy notice states that the company may share your collected personal information with its parent company, dealerships, third-party service providers, insurance companies, emergency responders and law enforcement. 

Many other vehicle manufacturers have similar privacy policies. This means that what you might have thought is private or secure data – such as your location, driving information, phone contacts and voice recordings – could be distributed to outside parties. If you get involved in a car accident where serious personal injuries were sustained, this data may be used against you. If you were using the infotainment system to make a phone call, send a text message or change the radio station at the time of the crash, for example, this information could be used by investigators to place fault for the accident with you.

is my cars computer accessible by police after auto accident

What Data From a Car Does a Black Box Record?

In addition to information collected by infotainment systems, newer vehicles also use event data recorders commonly known as black boxes. While you may associate black boxes with airplanes, they’ve been installed in every new motor vehicle since September 2014 under a rule by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A vehicle’s black box automatically records a wealth of information about the car and the operator’s driving habits, including:

  • The speed of the vehicle
  • The application of the brakes
  • Whether the driver was wearing a seat belt
  • Steering angles
  • Throttle position
  • Velocity changes
  • The use of cruise control
  • Safety measures taken

There is an option for black boxes to collect 30 distinct points of data, although NHTSA regulations only require 15. Black boxes are constantly running and recording information on a continuous loop. They automatically save all data collected at the time of a vehicle collision, as well as record for about five seconds after the time of impact. The information gathered by a black box can help the police determine fault for a car accident. If you are not at fault for the crash, it could also help prove that you did what you were supposed to do to avoid the accident.

How Can You Protect Your Privacy?

If you drive a newer vehicle, you may be able to protect your personal information by restricting how you use the infotainment system. Look for an option that prevents the manufacturer from sharing your data with third parties, if available. If you get into a car accident or are suspected of criminal activity connected to your vehicle, you may not be able to stop the information collected from being shared with law enforcement. In most cases, however, law enforcement must have your permission or a search warrant to access data from your vehicle.