By on May 6, 2021

A recent report from The Intercept has confirmed some of our biggest fears about connected vehicles. Apparently, U.S. Customs And Border Protection (CBP) has struck a deal with Swedish mobile forensics and data extraction firm MSAB for hardware that allows the government to not only siphon up vehicle data but also use it as a backdoor to access the information on your phone.

While this shouldn’t be all that surprising in an America that’s seen the Patriot Act pave the way for all sorts of government spying, the arrangement represents another item in a toolbox that’s frequently used against regular citizens. CBP is alleged to have spent $456,073 on a series of vehicle forensic kits manufactured inside the United States by Berla. Internal documents suggest that the system was unique and of great interest to the U.S. government, with a multitude of potential applications pertaining to automotive data. But what surprised us was just how much information carmakers thought their products needed to keep tabs on and how that plays into this.  (Read More…)

By on November 19, 2020

General Motors is making moves to offer insurance plans under its data-focused OnStar connected services, which is convenient since the feature comes equipped on all new models the company sells inside North America. Participating customers will be required to allow the automaker to track their driving behavior in real-time. As a perk for handing over their right to privacy, GM will offer discounts to motorists that never exceed the speed limit or accidentally roll through a stop sign.

It’s part of a usage-based insurance trend that’s becoming increasingly common within the industry. It started years ago with customers agreeing to have insurers install tracking devices in their vehicles in exchange for lower rates — assuming they displayed what the agency deemed safe driving practices throughout the duration. But, now that cars are becoming connected to the internet, this can be done automatically with on-board technologies. Consumer advocacy groups are growing worried that insurers will eventually make vehicle tracking mandatory and use it as an excuse to issue predatory fees.

Frankly, so are we.

(Read More…)

By on July 27, 2017

Texting and Driving

The state of New York is preparing to study the use of a device known as a “textalyzer” that would allow police to determine whether a motorist involved in a serious crash was texting while driving. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he was encouraging the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to examine the technology’s usefulness, as well as the privacy and constitutional questions it could raise.

Named to be intentionally reminiscent of the breathalyzer, likely for marketing purposes, the textalyzer is framed by its designers as a device intended to identify whether a driver was interacting with their phone prior to a serious crash. However, there’s technically nothing stopping others from using this technology during a routine traffic stop down the line.

Last year, New York Senator Terrence Murphy and Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz partnered with Distracted Operators Risk Casualties (DORC) to propose a bill that would allow authorities to examine phones at an accident site. The move created a backlash from digital privacy advocates, who believe the device is an invasion of personal liberties. Governor Cuomo has been supportive of the DORC in the past and has made the elimination of distracted driving a personal project.  (Read More…)

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