By on August 1, 2011

GM’s Onstar division has long raised privacy concerns among the professionally paranoid, but now it’s putting all that observational power into the hands of consumers, with a pilot program called “Family Link.”  Described in GM’s presser as “a new optional service that will explore ways subscribers can stay connected to their loved ones,” the service includes

  • Vehicle Locate: The subscriber can log on to the Family Link website to view a map with the vehicle’s exact location at any time.
  • Vehicle Location Alert: Subscribers can set up email or text message notifications to let them know the location of their loved one’s vehicle. They can choose the day, time and frequency of the alerts.

But that’s not all: if the pilot proves that consumers are willing to pay for the right to surveil their loved ones,

Future considerations for the pilot include Speed Alert, Boundary Alert and Arrival/Departure Alert.

Forget Big Brother… with this system, you can be Big Daddy, in the center of your own little family-sized panopticon. From making sure the kids stay out of trouble (“Say, son, what were you doing in downtown Detroit last night?”) to checking up on your loving spouse (“Honey, why did you say you were going to the gym, when you just parked for an hour at the Slee-Zee Snooze Motel?”), it’s how today’s on-the-go families foster an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust. Because why let the government have all the voyeuristic fun?

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

14 Comments on “Want To Spy On The Kids/Spouse? Onstar Has The Answer!...”


  • avatar
    aristurtle

    Yes, just think! Before OnStar created this service (that’s exclusive to GM vehicles that have an active OnStar subscription), the easiest way to constantly track your wife and kids would be to, um, install a $0.99 app onto their phones.

    Quite the hurdle there.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Not like there aren’t several apps that do this, like google latitude. You share your location with who you want to. Latitude proved to be very useful on a recent road trip I took with my in laws. 2 separate cars leaving from 2 points arriving at the same destination, was quite easy to see where everyone was.

    Will people use this for spying, yes. But, since it sounds like it is going to be limited to cars you own, it won’t be as useful as the cell phone apps.

    I am going to have to put this in the bucket of a reach. Cell phones do a much better job of this and are actually carried outside of a car.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Why does the parking facility scene in Ferris Bueler’s Day Off come to mind?

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    While following up on the spouse would be certain calamity, tracking teens, especially with Speed Alert, is just good sense. Operating 2 tons of powerful machinery before the frontal lobes are fully developed is a recipe for disaster. I know that I (and everyone I knew) exercised very poor judgement as a teen behind the wheel, but was lucky enough to survive in spite of myself. If I knew that my mom would get automated updates regarding my hooning it would have acted as some much needed good judgement (albeit external). As a parent, I would also appreciate Boundry Alert, and would also like to see an accellerometer reading thrown in for good measure.

    • 0 avatar

      I played out the “Speed Alert” scenario in my mind, and got this: Dad’s cell phone beeps, alerting him that his Malibu just accelerated to 80 MPH with his son at the wheel. Dad texts son “ur in big trouble, mister,” causing son to crash while trying to read it.

      I guess I don’t understand how it helps to know where you’re kids are and how fast they’re driving , because these aren’t really things you can do anything about (other than after-the-fact consequences, and I’m young enough to remember how rarely those work). I mean, you trust the kid to take off in the family car, but still need to know his/her top speed and travel destinations? I just don’t get it… but then, there’s a lot about raising kids that utterly baffles me, and I’m squarely in the “ignorance is bliss” camp on the issue.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        But, the car will likely be able to read the text message to you when this comes out…

        I really don’t think that is a big deal though. Who is to say that he wouldn’t be texting to dinner in 15 minutes or something else that the son reads and crashes. Maybe it could be used to see if your kid is driving before you send the text.

        My first question though, do you have kids? Now, there are many different theories on what people do to raise them. I could see this being something some parents would want. Not saying it is right or wrong, but it is an OPTIONAL service. Just because you don’t agree with it, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be offered.

        But also realize, much of this can be done today with cell phone apps. Some people want this type of feature.

      • 0 avatar

        Nope, no kids. No plans for kids. Which apparently helps explain why I don’t get this at all.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        While you may not have kids nor plan on doing so (same here), it isn’t hard to remember the foolish things you did behind the wheel as a teen, and to recognize the distress that you did or could have caused your parents with that behavior. As to playing out any of the Alert scenarios, sending a text msg to your teen driver WHILE he’s driving is silly beyond imaging. Consequences after the alert, like loss of driving privileges, can be very effective. Even more effective is the knowledge that your parents are watching over your shoulder as you drive, tamping down the urge to hoon. That may not stop all hooning, but it sure could have a positive affect.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I told the kids that it was my car and my rules. I put them in writing and made them sign it before I gave them the keys. If I had this gadget back then, I would have used it and felt good about it.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      I can think of like three different ways, just off the top of my head, that a teenager with half a brain could get around this tracking system.

      • 0 avatar
        lakeuser2002

        And a parent with half a brain would be able to see that it was disabled (at least after the fact).

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Why disable it? Jam the CDMA frequencies it uses to report back to base. OnStar uses the Verizon network now that it went digital, right? So 850 and 1300 MHz ought to cover it. You as the parent would see “lost reception for fifteen minutes here” while your son was drag racing your Camaro with his buddies.

        It’s not like the thing never loses reception naturally, after all. If the system is smart enough to store GPS data for later, jam 1575.42 instead. Parent sees “GPS sattelite lost.” Again, happens naturally all the time too.

        Is frequency jamming illegal? Of course. So is drag racing in an empty parking lot. Kids do what kids do.

  • avatar
    lakeuser2002

    I started driving dirt bikes, snowmobiles, boats & tractors (OK, not racing tractors) at an early age. By the time I was 16 driving a car I could handle it quite well. Of course that gave me the confidence to do some pretty dumb things. As it did my brother who died after racing (screwing around) in the back country roads of Michigan (he was 17, me 16). My oldest of 3 boys has his permit, and I’m doing my best to have him become a good, save and defensive driver. I’d be willing to pay for the monitoring service to maybe provide one more reason for him to not do something dumb (like I did) until his frontal lobe is more developed..

  • avatar
    geozinger

    When I was 13, I would occasionally sneak my father’s Mercury out of the (detached) garage and go hooning in the alleyways of our neighborhood. Sometimes I would grow balls and take the car out of the neighborhood. When I finally did get a license, I hooned far away from the neighborhood. Like many others, I’m only here due to luck or the intervention of a slightly bemused God.

    However, here I am 35 years later, and after having launched one daughter into the current driving atmosphere, my second daughter is taking driving lessons. Neither one has shown any propensity to hooning, and the second one is barely interested in driving. She starts college in the fall, which explains why she’s finally taking lessons at the ripe old age of 18.

    If I did have a son (or sons), and if they did pick up on my tendency to hoon, and since I already have OnStar in the ‘family’ car, I might consider purchasing this part of the service. But like others have mentioned, there are cell phone apps that are equally good at spying on the kids (or others) whereabouts, and frankly are lot less expensive.

    OnStar is late to the party with this feature. I’d rather have them develop a way to make the service less expensive, or offer more features than work on stuff like this.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India