Automakers dazzle at CES, but what about privacy?

The intersection of technology and the automobile industry was on full display this week at the Consumer Electronics Show where a record number of automakers presented.

Though the sneak peek at the new gadgetry and the evolution of on-board systems was quite impressive, there's a bit of backlash building on privacy issues.

As more mobile devices connect to cars, and Google's Open Automototive Alliance and GM's OnStar system evolve, hyper-local marketing could take off. It's a gray area with few legal precedents, note privacy advocates.

A Ford exec probably got a little too fired up at CES earlier this week with this comment: "We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you're doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you're doing."


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Comments (11)
  • Momintn
    , contributor
    Comments (6073) | Send Message
    I think people are more concerned about finding a stolen vehicle, avoiding a traffic jam or accident, and getting help if an accident occurs or a child goes missing. All of these fears about privacy don't concern people who try to follow our laws.
    10 Jan 2014, 09:53 AM Reply Like
  • Monja
    , contributor
    Comments (66) | Send Message
    I think most people, when given a choice, will choose a service with privacy over the same service without privacy. If some auto company includes some sort of automatic/always on GPS that sends its data to law enforcement officials for speed/crime monitoring, that will practically guarantee that they will see 0 sales. Other auto companies could easily include the same GPS feature and make it only be available to the owner..
    10 Jan 2014, 11:47 AM Reply Like
  • Dan Fichana
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    Really bad comment by Ford exec.


    Sure it was a hyperbole on their part, but still does not look good. My concern is that if municipalities get desperate, they will audit the car companies, give out tickets for speeding using GPS and speed of car.


    Monitoring speeds and other diagnostics remotely should only be done at the consumer's discretion and turned off unless deemed necessary by the owner of the car.


    I.e. if the owner is a municipalitiy and the car is speeding or spending an inordinate amount of time at a location of vice- yes, then turn it on.
    If the car is a demo owned by a company and they want to ensure it is not being abused, yes turn it on.
    If you are the owner and give it to your 16 yr old kid, yes, the monitoring could be good.
    If your car is stolen, then enable it remotely


    Those are the only 4 reasons. No other reason for tracking or monitoring speed.


    Simple - person who had the car registered under their name has access, everyone else does not.
    10 Jan 2014, 10:18 AM Reply Like
  • 1980XLS
    , contributor
    Comments (3360) | Send Message
    This story hit over a year ago, regarding GM's use of Onstar.


    They were found to continue monitoring customers that had cancelled subscriptions.


    My understanding was they agreed to discontinue the practice.


    It was kinda cool getting weekly emails of tire pressures in each of my 4 tires, while I was using the service.
    10 Jan 2014, 10:32 AM Reply Like
  • Cassina Tarsia
    , contributor
    Comments (662) | Send Message
    Tesla has expressly said, both publically and in all of my conversations with the Tesla people, that all of their information is totally private and not available to anyone without the express consent of the owner or court order ... at least Tesla is doing it the right way! Ford has broken the fundamental principle of privacy - they will lose customers from their comment unless they make changes to their policy soon, especially if word gets out as to what they are doing.
    10 Jan 2014, 12:17 PM Reply Like
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (8920) | Send Message
    Probably be a really good idea for Ford to come out and "clarify" Chris Farley's cousin's rather frightening and stunningly frank comments.


    Context is important though. Farley was most likely joking around as to what the state of the art systems could do if it was needed, not what is actually being done. It just comes across as something foreboding that law enforcement is or could be doing, with Ford's active cooperation.


    Ford's development test fleet almost certainly has such tracking equipment and software for analysis, to monitor what their employees are doing with test cars when nobody is 'looking". Just like monitoring internet usage and such.


    In any case, this is the stuff that conspiracy theorists thrive on, and Farley's comments were extremely unfortunate, and has probably set Ford's PR team's heads spinning as how to deal with it, waiting with eyes wide open to see if anyone noticed the giant turd tossed and splash into the CES party punch bowl ... wondering if it then quietly sank to the bottom to mix with the maraschino cherries, or if it floating there right on top about to be scooped up by the next delicate celebrity-royale in a grand Victorian ball gown and huge wig, about to have a scream and fainting spell.


    Meanwhile, Farley may need to start shopping for a Van to live in down by the River.
    10 Jan 2014, 12:27 PM Reply Like
  • 1980XLS
    , contributor
    Comments (3360) | Send Message


    It is actually being done. (it is not about what they are capable of doing)


    Not just as in Fleetmatics type of monitoring for employee vehicles.


    It is how it is being used is what concerns some people.


    Nissan started this a few years ago with the GTR.


    They were voiding warranties if the car was being used on Racetracks.


    Some of it is for the benefit of the manufacturer, some may benefit the customer.


    OnStar was emailing me a lot of data on my car every week.
    10 Jan 2014, 12:45 PM Reply Like
  • surferbroadband
    , contributor
    Comments (5122) | Send Message
    There are a few limited reasons for monitoring you vehicle. If the owner of the vehicle wants the monitoring, then fine. Unless there is a court order, everyone else has no business. If you want the monitoring turned off, then you should have that option too.


    Maybe you are not doing anything illegal. But what you are doing is disgusting. Nobody has the right to see who you visit, what time you visit, and when you leave. Even though everything you did was legal, for other people to know they would lose respect for you.
    10 Jan 2014, 02:07 PM Reply Like
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (8920) | Send Message
    Surfer - you can rest assured that nobody (Ford, GM, anyone) is actually "doing" anything "disgusting" with any hypothetical data. Farley's comments were clearly tongue in cheek hyperbole. Nobody at Ford or GM has the time or would care to to monitor millions of cars on the road to try to "catch" random speeders, nor are they spying on surfer dudes visiting their kush plugs and making booty calls on the sly.


    We've had OnStar in GM vehicles for years now. The system can locate your stolen car and report it to police. It can unlock your doors for you, tell you where you are if you are lost, and even make dinner reservations enroute - even if "dinner" is a Half O of Dank at the back door of the Olive Garden in Obispo. But in theory it could also record your speed and location and direction of travel and report that to the police if you are trying to flee, and it could tell the police if you are or were in a location of known criminal activity, and it can collect accident information to help police determine if you were at fault. They could probably even turn on the microphone and listen in on your conversation while you are getting some action in the car.


    But that is not to say it is being done, nor that anyone wants it to be done. But especially under the new Homeland Security rules for terrorists and their contacts, anything is possible. I think that is what Farley was getting at.
    11 Jan 2014, 06:47 AM Reply Like
  • devaro
    , contributor
    Comments (4) | Send Message
    "But that is not to say it is being done, nor that anyone wants it to be done. But especially under the new Homeland Security rules for terrorists and their contacts, anything is possible."
    I think everybody agrees that if it is possible they will do it.It does not matter who,the manufacturer,the service provider,the government...they will always find a reasonable explanation:security,t... ,advertising,consumer profiling and so on. My problem is they are doing it with your hard earned money.So unless they give all these for free and you sign away your rights ,you should be the only one controlling these gadgets.
    12 Jan 2014, 11:46 PM Reply Like
  • CaptainKev
    , contributor
    Comments (2) | Send Message
    I wouldn't mind having access to that information.... I recently was sited for speeding and I know it wasn't me, but the car that flew by me. I have no way to prove it. Maybe now I do?
    13 Jan 2014, 12:00 AM Reply Like
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