Ever wonder exactly how the various “quick-lube” places in your city made a profit?
The price of motor oil rises and falls — mostly rises — but the pricing stays at $19.95 or $24.95 or whatever your local market will bear. As fate would have it, most of my vehicles aren’t compatible with the quick-lube business model of having some sweaty dude waving your air filter in your face and telling you that it has the Zika virus while an actual rhesus monkey cross-threads your drain plug using an impact gun. My 993, as an example, has two oil filters, while my Boxster requires a 32-step process to get to the air filters. Nor would I trust my mighty Accord V6 to somebody whose path in life hasn’t qualified them to work above ground.
Not all of us have the luxury of doing our own oil changes at home, however. You might not have the space, the tools, the ability, or the time that’s required to do it correctly yourself. That last factor is perhaps the biggest. If you’re working two McJobs to make ends meet, the Valvoline Oil Change down the street might be your only practical choice. The good news: it’s cheap. The bad news: some of that cost savings comes from another way the shop makes money on you, without you even knowing.
Your faithful four-wheeled companion — the one that costs you an arm and a leg but you still love it — has the data-gathering potential to make your life a Kafkaesque nightmare.
Researchers have found that a car’s computer network can identify a driver just by the way they operate the vehicle. Even something as simple as the brake pedal can pinpoint who’s behind the wheel, according to a report published in Wired. (Read More…)
As the state of New York debates new distracted driving legislation, an Israeli firm is putting the finishing touches on a “textalyzer” device that could rat out drivers for using their phone before a crash.
Israeli mobile forensics firm Cellebrite developed the data-scanning device, according to Ars Technica, which could become the newest — and most controversial — law enforcement tool since the Taser.
Cellebrite, which sounds like a medication for over-sexed honors students, specializes in data extraction and decoding, and boasts of its 15,000-plus military and law enforcement customers on its website. The firm really knows its stuff — it’s generally believed that they helped the FBI hack into the iPhone at the heart of the San Bernardino/Apple controversy.
You probably don’t know much about Vigilant Systems, but the company likely knows more about you than you know about them. That because Vigilant Systems is in the business of knowing. The company has so far collected about 2.8 billion license plate photos with its network of cameras, and every month it adds another 70-80 million photos, including a timestamp of the photo and geographic location of the plate, to Vigilant Solutions’ permanent storage. They sell that data to police departments and, depending on the jurisdiction, even some private sector institutions, such as insurance companies investigating fraud.
Vigilant Solutions’ deals with government agencies have raised concerns about civil liberties, freedom of movement, privacy and mass surveillance. As Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic describes Vigilant Solutions, “your diminished privacy is their product.” (Read More…)
Two weeks ago, the B&B took the time to educate me about license plate readers and their various extra-legal uses. As someone who has worked at least part-time in the tech industry since the mid-90s, I started thinking about what the cost would be of a distributed plate-tracking business. Eventually the readers will be smaller and less obvious, at which point you throw a couple of bucks to Uber drivers and the like to toss them on all four corners and send you the data.
Given enough sources, eventually you’d be able to have a pretty good database of personal movement in your chosen area. That data is certainly worth money to someone, whether that “someone” is a real-estate developer, a fast-food franchisor or a private detective. Short of writing legislation specifically to stop such activity, I don’t see how anybody’s going to stop that business model from eventually becoming a reality.
In the meantime, however, there’s already one entity that has access to a nontrivial database of ANPR information. Good news! At least one government official has proposed that this information be used to save you from yourself.
An alert from one of the local news stations popped up on my screen last week asking readers to be on the lookout for a stolen unmarked police cruiser. My first instinct was to warn family and friends that an impersonator was out on the loose. Once I got the word out, I started analyzing the situation and thinking about vehicle tracking. I wondered why the local police department did not equip their cruisers with some sort of GPS tracking device which could have allowed them to locate the vehicle quickly without putting the public at risk. I have some experience with GPS tracking in a couple of different fields and decided to do some research on patrol car GPS devices.
The report details a May lunch between TrueCar CEO Scott Painter, President John Krafcik and Senior Vice President of Dealer Development Mike Timmons, and AutoNation COO Bill Berman and Chief Marketing Officer Marc Cannon. At the lunch, TrueCar executives reportedly said they would require data from all AutoNation sales — regardless if they were generated by TrueCar — for the two companies to continue doing business.
“Over my dead body,” AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson said later, according to Automotive News.