Tag: Privacy

By on September 24, 2011

Concerns over privacy have haunted GM’s OnStar business for as long as it’s been around, and responses like this video have become something of an annual routine for OnStar’s executives. The latest round of furor involves changes to OnStar’s policies, which the New York Times describes thusly

The first regards what happens when a customer cancels the service. Until now, when OnStar service stopped, so did the vehicle’s two-way communications system. As of Dec. 1, however, that will not necessarily be the case. Vehicles of owners who no longer subscribe could still be monitored via the system’s still-active two-way cellular link.

The second policy change concerns the potential use of the data collected by OnStar, which includes information like the vehicle’s speed and location, current odometer reading, driver seat-belt use and air-bag deployment. Under the new terms, OnStar reserves the right to share that information with other companies and organizations, even data culled from motorists who no longer subscribe to the service but who have left the two-way communications connection open.

Of course, OnStar says GM customers can opt out of the service, but it’s making the case that by only sharing anonymous data, it can limit meaningful privacy concerns. But OnStar doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and as it continues to sell Americans on the notion that security is worth sacrificing some sense of privacy for, it will find itself increasingly pulled into a national debate.
(Read More…)

By on August 8, 2011

[Editor's Note: This piece, by Eric Peters, has been republished from the National Motorist's Association blog. It originally appeared at epautos.com.]

Big Brother’s doing a bit more than just watching you these days.

Remember the last time you got your driver’s license renewed? You may recall the procedure for taking your picture was a bit different than it used to be.

Instead of the usual “smile” you might have been told to do no such thing — very specifically. To be as expressionless as possible. And that the system seemed more “high-tech” than it used to be. Instead of receiving your new license on-site, it would be mailed to you in a week or so — from some unspecified “secure location,” perhaps.

You may have been told or seen signs or been given literature explaining that the new way of taking your picture is part of new security measures designed to make it harder for people to manufacture fake IDs (since a driver’s license is the de facto national ID in this country).

But they probably didn’t mention that the pictures — digitized images, actually — were to be downloaded into a new database that uses facial recognition software to “scan” for (are you surprised?) Terrorists — among other things.

Only it’s ordinary Americans who are being terrorized.

(Read More…)

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?

By on July 27, 2011


Do we really need one?

Opinions vary widely. In recent years, there have been two legislative efforts to convert the ubiquitous state driver license into a national ID card, making it the essential “show us your papers” document in order to navigate in, around, and through our society.

At the other end of the spectrum, a current movement to do away with the driver license altogether may seem impractical, but it is gathering momentum in regions around the U.S.

Which should it be – a federally-mandated document that uniquely identifies its holder and is necessary to provide the right to drive, to fly, and to participate in various governmental programs, or an extraneous card that serves no useful purpose in a society where individuals have the right to travel without restrictions?

Let’s examine these two diametrically opposed positions:

(Read More…)

By on July 12, 2011

Police are not alone in the ability to secretly use GPS devices to track someone without his knowledge, the New Jersey Superior Court’s Appellate Division ruled Thursday. A three-judge panel made this decision in the context of a privacy invasion suit brought by Kenneth R. Villanova against Innovative Investigations Inc after his now ex-wife hired the private-eye company to spy on him. She intended to document alleged infidelities prior to filing for divorce in May 2008. At the firm’s suggestion, Villanova’s wife installed the tracking device on her husband’s GMC Yukon-Denali which followed the vehicle’s every move for forty days.

(Read More…)

By on June 13, 2011

Since Nissan’s PR and communication folks are probably having a busy morning anyway, we thought we’d bring this video to their attention. According to this apparently quite tech-savvy Leaf owner, the Leaf’s CarWings system will automatically send your location data to any third-party RSS feed you sign up for. As he puts it in the video

“There’s a lot of personal data there. I’m not sure if you really want Fox News to know exactly where you’re at, how fast you’re driving, that kind of thing… when you read those RSS feeds in your car, you might want to think twice about hitting that button”

Why would signing up for an RSS feed require that constantly-updated locational data be sent to the RSS provider? The video’s maker assumes the data is for “CarWings internal use” and yet he shows that it gets sent to third parties. We know GM monitors Chevy Volt user data anonymously through Onstar, but one assumes that this kind of data is fairly well protected from third parties. In the case of the Leaf, that may not be the case. We’d sure like to know if this is true, and why…

[UPDATE: Nissan tells us: "Owners have to opt in or agree to share their data every time they sign in.  If they don’t, then they pass on the benefit as well.  They will however, lose any remote control or data logging capability but the choice is in the hand of the driver every time."]

By on November 3, 2010

Automotive News [sub] hasn’t received the memo that EVs need good news, badly. Instead, AN hammers the last nail into the electric vehicle’s coffin. If range anxiety, the lack of 220V outlets at your curbside parking spot, and high prices aren’t enough to keep you away from an electric car, how about “an Orwellian future where faceless international corporations track your every move. Drop by the bar after work, call in sick to go to the beach, visit your mistress’ house. The all-seeing eye of Big Brother knows where you’ve been.”

That’s what will happen when you drive an EV, says Automotive News [EN]. Your green friend will snitch on you. 24/7. (Read More…)

By on September 10, 2010

Police officers in the commonwealth of Virginia can track the movements of motorists with secretly installed satellite tracking devices on their own authority, the state court of appeals ruled Tuesday. On February 1, 2008, Fairfax County police had attached a GPS tracking device to the work van of David L. Foltz, Jr based on a hunch that Foltz may have been involved in a series of crimes. The officers did not bother obtaining a warrant or asking the permission of the company that owned the van. The department used such devices on 159 such occasions between 2005 and 2007 but no policy guidelines were ever drafted to govern their use. Using a magnet and tape, an officer stuck the GPS unit under the van’s bumper while it was parked on a public street.

(Read More…)

By on July 23, 2010

Carquestions is at it again, digging into the businesses of vocal Toyota critic Sean Kane, and finding that he may just be selling NHTSA data that has been recalled due to rampant privacy abuses.

By on July 21, 2010

Wisconsin’s highest court yesterday approved police use of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to track motorists, as long as a valid search warrant is obtained. In 2003, Madison Police Detective Mary Ricksecker attached a tracking device to the 1980 Chevy Beretta as it sat on the private driveway belonging to Michael A. Sveum, then age 35. Sveum was suspected of stalking his ex-girlfriend, Jamie Johnson based on nine hang-up calls that were placed at payphones around the city. The tracking device was eventually used to connect Sveum to the time and place of other calls.

(Read More…)

By on June 3, 2010

Our Canadian pal carquestions took a look through NHTSA’s public complaint database, and found four examples of personal information that NHTSA should have redacted but didn’t. You kow, things like names, birth dates, social security numbers, addresses, VINs, and drivers license numbers. And he found those four after searching through “12 or 15″ of the 792,000 publicly-available NHTSA complaint cases. He’s calling on NHTSA to shut down public access to the database until it can get a handle on this problem. (The NHTSA listened.) (Read More…)

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