In-Vehicle Privacy Issues Heating Up

But today, of course, there’s almost noth­ing that your boss (and the­o­ret­i­cal­ly at least, the NSA) doesn’t know about what you or your employ­ees are doing and say­ing inside the car: If you are or have been talk­ing or tex­ting on a smart phone, how many jackrab­bit starts and pan­ic stops or bro­ken speed lim­its there have been in the last minute, day or for­ev­er for that vehi­cle and its dri­ver. Or, maybe worse, for the indo­lent employ­ee, loaf­ing on the job by a stop at a favorite water­ing hole.

Even before GPS, automak­ers col­lect­ed a lot of infor­ma­tion about the oper­a­tion of a car. These data were used for vehi­cle con­trol, as well as pro­tec­tion from lia­bil­i­ty, and pre­sum­ably shared with insur­ers. Onboard “flight recorders” often proved help­ful to automak­ers in court pro­ceed­ings. A num­ber of states have reg­u­la­tions cov­er­ing such data.

Nev­er­the­less, there has been lit­tle law and reg­u­la­tion in this area, but now that the car has become a rolling desk­top — or enter­tain­ment cen­ter, or water cool­er, call it what you will — the issue is heat­ing up.

Most assured­ly, Con­gress has not got­ten over it.  A Dri­ver Pri­va­cy Act is mak­ing its way through the leg­isla­tive body. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma ini­ti­at­ed a Con­sumer Pri­va­cy Bill of Rights in 2012, but it has not made any head­way in Con­gress.

Maybe, as Scott McNealy, opined so long ago, con­sumers have got­ten over it. Ford recent­ly was award­ed a patent for in-car adver­tis­ing, and oth­er automak­ers are also said to be look­ing at the pos­si­bil­i­ty. Set­ting aside the obvi­ous pri­or-art issue, Thi­lo Koslows­ki, a top Gart­ner auto-indus­try ana­lyst, “If the mar­ket­ing angle was that inter­est­ing, Google would have done it ten years ago.”

Mike Sheldrick, Senior Edi­tor, Fleet Man­age­ment Week­ly

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