Fraunhofer develops privacy black box for dashcams

Fraunhofer develops privacy black box for dashcams

Feature articles |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Dashcams are enjoying growing popularity: in the event of an accident, they can provide clarity about the exact course of events. But the permanent recording of the traffic environment can violate privacy rights and data protection. With the “Privacy BlackBox”, Fraunhofer AISEC and its partners are presenting a solution that will enable the use of dashcams in cars in compliance with data protection regulations.

In some countries, including Germany, the fact that dashcams are filmed through the windshield without a reason and, above all, permanently, is considered a violation of the Data Protection Act and the privacy rights of road users. Unlike in the USA or Russia, the recordings in German courts are thus controversial as evidence.

There is currently no uniform EU-wide data protection regulation on how to deal with such recordings. The question as to whether and how the data collected may be used must be decided on a case-by-case basis on the basis of a weighing of interests and goods and the corresponding guidance provided by the data protection supervisory authority. In the past, it usually required the use of several judicial instances.

In the opinion of many experts, the manually triggered, occasion-related recording by cameras, which are only activated when sensors register violent braking or vibration – so-called crash cams – does not offer a solution to the dilemma and also requires additional effort. The question of the lawful use or targeted manipulation of the recordings remains.

The Privacy BlackBox now being developed by Fraunhofer AISEC and partners, is based on two central components: A trustworthy recording device enables decentralized data storage without single point-of-failure and operator-safe data encryption directly on the device. A digital trustee infrastructure protects against unauthorized access to the data and guarantees transparent traceability and secure logging of events.

The basis is an embedded platform that makes it possible to connect a wide variety of sensors to the data recorder, for example the built-in automotive sensors or sensors for driving style analysis. Through the use of hardware-supported cryptography, the decentrally stored data is immediately encrypted and digitally signed in the device. Physical attacks against the system, such as violent opening of the housing, are also detected. In addition, one of the keys required to read the data is destroyed, so that data already recorded can no longer be decrypted and become worthless for attackers. Each camera has a unique key that is bound to its hardware. This key is used to sign the video material and can thus be perfectly assigned to a specific device.

Even after the data has been collected, strict control of access and transmission of the data is necessary. As industrial partner, Uniscon GmbH is responsible for setting up and operating the digital trustee infrastructure, which protects the data from unauthorized access and only generates a key for accessing the necessary data section when predefined conditions occur.

The decentralized storage of the data takes place locally. Data access guidelines are defined in advance and recorded in corresponding policies. On the basis of these policies, each event is automatically logged, evaluated and stored, making subsequent manipulation of the data impossible. Without legitimate interest, no one has access to the data, not even the trustee himself. An access key is only defined when a predefined condition occurs.

In the future, the Privacy BlackBox could be used not only in automobiles, but also in industrial environments to check systems and machines, says Fraunhofer AISEC. Video recordings of technical inspections or investigations in the area of critical infrastructures enable detailed documentation of the inspection process. Parallel to the personal data in the car, information secret to the company is also sometimes recorded here, which requires strict access control and comprehensive protection of the sensitive data.


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