European Parliament clears eCall after strengthening data protection clauses

The European Parliament approved plans to install emergency calling equipment in new vehicles, but only after beefing up the data protection requirements of the system.

The Parliament on Tuesday cleared legislation mandating the installation of it's eCall system in all new cars and light vans by Mar. 31, 2018, stating the move could cut the number of fatalities on European roads by 10 per cent each year. The system uses Europe's 112 emergency call number, the region's equivalent of the UK's 999 or U.S. 911 services.

However, European Ministers only approved the move after strengthening a data protection clause, amid concerns eCall may be used to collect information on drivers beyond the basic data required by emergency services.

The requirement means the system will only relay information regarding the type of vehicle, its fuel type, the time and location of the accident, and the number of passengers. Auto makers must ensure the equipment they use to meet the requirement enables full and permanent deletion of data gathered, and information cannot be passed to a third party without clear consent from the driver.

EU rapporteur Olga Sehnalov√° said "eCall as a public service, free of charge for all citizens, irrespective of the type of vehicle or its purchase price, will contribute" to the Parliament's goal of reducing road fatalities, by helping improve "road safety in all 28 member states."

The Parliament originally aimed to introduce eCall in 2012, but delayed the move to address concerns over privacy--a subject that has become a hot potato following claims by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency, of widespread snooping by that agency and its UK counterpart, GCHQ.

Those concerns could be well founded, according to Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing.

In January, Robertson revealed his company is already receiving multiple requests for access to data collected by connected cars from marketing companies seeking to add another channel to their campaigns.

For more:
- see this EU announcement

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