A Practical Guide to Video-Based Safety Technologies in Commercial Fleets: A Joint Whitepaper by Samsara and Future of Privacy Forum

June 7, 2022


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By Caitlyn Chacon, Meera Bhaskar, and Shailey Jain

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 100 people a day. Despite fewer vehicle miles traveled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 38,680 individuals died in motor vehicle accidents in 2020.  In 2021, this number jumped to more than 46,000 deaths.  In January 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation ("DOT") released its National Roadway Safety Strategy, which describes this continued rise in motor vehicle fatalities as "a crisis on our roadways."  

Technology–specifically, advanced driver assistance systems, commonly referred to as ADAS–have increasingly become a key part of the solution to the intractable roadway safety problem, and the federal government has taken note.  Several provisions of the Infrastructure Bill, recent programs by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the DOT’s National Roadway Safety Strategy are just a few federal initiatives that tout ADAS as a critical tool to combat the ongoing roadway safety problem.

Given the increasing importance of technology in emerging transportation safety efforts, Samsara has published a white paper in collaboration with the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), taking a closer look at one type of ADAS, video-based safety systems, and its use and impact in commercial motor vehicle fleets.  The paper, "A Practical Guide to Video-Based Safety Technologies in Commercial Fleets," provides an overview of video-based safety systems, and documents the ways commercial carriers are using this technology to reduce distracted driving and other unsafe driving behaviors, provide real-time feedback to drivers, improve driver coaching, enhance operational visibility and efficiency, and support incident investigation and driver exoneration.  

The paper also analyzes how deploying video-based safety solutions may create privacy concerns, and how such concerns can be mitigated by adopting data privacy best practices. In the paper, FPF and Samsara urge commercial carriers using video-based safety solutions to adopt privacy best practices that go beyond compliance with existing privacy and data processing laws.  By adopting such measures, organizations can help ensure continued compliance with applicable laws and offer robust data security and privacy protections to safeguard their business and their drivers. 

The paper recommends the following best practices for commercial fleets using video-based safety solutions: 

  • Understand what data is being collected when using a video-based safety solution, and the purpose for collecting and processing it.  Privacy Impact Assessments are important tools for answering these questions and ensuring you understand the impact of the solution you are using.  These help you identify privacy risks associated with a new product or service, as well as mitigation strategies to manage those considerations.  

  • Select a solution equipped with built-in privacy and security protections. Many video-based safety technologies have built-in privacy and security protections with customizable features that give organizations control over how to implement these technologies to achieve their particular privacy obligations and objectives.  These kinds of features give organizations control over the type of information that is collected and how, how long it is stored, who has access to the data, and what data might be shared with third parties.    

  • Follow data minimization strategies. Select a solution that collects and processes personal data only to the extent necessary to deliver the benefits of the technology.  Rather than having video-based safety technologies upload data continuously, whenever the device is on, organizations can set the device to capture and upload only the data necessary to deliver stated safety benefits. This helps ensure individual privacy is properly protected.   

  • Use secure cloud storage.  Cloud storage offers a system of data redundancy, which is effective in ensuring data is not lost. Data stored in the cloud is also typically encrypted, offering another level of protection. 

  • Be transparent and accountable.  Organizations should provide full transparency and notice to drivers and any other impacted employees about what data is collected during their use of a commercial vehicle, how the data is being used, and whether the data is shared with third parties. Establishing a clear policy that addresses these points will help set a driver’s expectations for how the technology will be used and how it might impact them.  A commitment to transparency can also help build privacy awareness into an organization’s culture and can assist with driver buy-in. 

  • Implement appropriate security safeguards.  Be mindful of and implement reasonable security safeguards.  What constitutes "reasonable" is often dictated by industry standards, but some important safeguards include: appropriate encryption and secure transmission; third-party auditing of a software provider’s infrastructure; data retention and deletion policies; role-based access controls; and privacy and security awareness and training for all employees.

  • Use robust written contracts with third parties. When using third-party providers, it is important to have robust written contracts that capture the shared responsibility model. Commercial fleets should consider which party is in a better position to take on the risks and responsibilities associated with each piece of the contract. For example, the provider of the product should be responsible for the security of the overall cloud and the user of the product is best suited to be responsible for internal use and access policies and security. 

As video-based safety solutions become more common, it is essential that policymakers, technology providers, and the commercial transportation industry understand how the underlying technology operates and how to mitigate privacy considerations they may raise. "Technology needs to be designed and used with privacy and security in mind – it is no longer good enough to provide lip service to it," said Lawrence Schoeb, Legal Director and Data Protection Officer at Samsara. "This is one of many reasons we strongly encourage the operation of any video-based safety systems to be consistent with and reflective of privacy best practices." The paper explains how organizations can stay on top of, and ahead of, both technological developments and changes to existing privacy and data security laws (which continue to evolve) by proactively implementing privacy best practices. Additionally, the paper discusses how although video-based safety technologies can raise privacy concerns, being informed on the technology itself, coupled with an awareness of best practices for how to utilize it and shape internal privacy regimes, can actually help strengthen privacy and security positions. 

Download "A Practical Guide to Video-Based Safety Technologies in Commercial Fleets," to read the full whitepaper.


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