Your Car Is Spying On You

Estimated read time 3 min read

Privacy is a rapidly disappearing asset these days.

Photo via Subaru

Most people assume what they do in their own private vehicle is their business, as long as they’re not breaking any laws. That’s a natural assumption but unfortunately is also an erroneous one. While you might expect your privacy to be raided on the regular if you live somewhere like China, here in the United States what you do with your vehicle infotainment system and the footage your Tesla’s cameras record might be accessed at any time not only by the government but also powerful yet shadowy corporations.

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If you own a Tesla and love the cameras on it because they can catch people keying your car or trying to break into it, those cameras could be used against you. San Francisco is moving to use private security camera footage without owners’ permission to fight crime, of course. This brings up all kinds of sticky constitutional and moral problems but isn’t shocking considering the growing authoritarian attitudes displayed throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Photo via Honda

It gets even worse: a growing number of new cars have driver-facing cameras to help monitor for drowsy or distracted driving. There are cameras pointed at the rear seats to make checking in on the kids easier. To think the government could just tap into those at any given time without your knowledge is disconcerting even if you’re not doing anything you understand to be illegal. We are living in an increasingly digital surveillance state.

An article published by The Markup does an excellent job of drilling into what happens with your car’s data. The conclusion was that at least 37 different companies are harvesting data from your vehicle without your knowledge or permission. Think they’ll face legal prosecution or any consequences for these actions? When so much money is involved in selling your information, it’s doubtful. After all, the same thing happens each time you log into the internet and do just about anything, unless you have a good VPN.

Photo via Mercedes-Benz

Through data collection, these companies can know what temperature you like to set for the cabin, what songs you listen to on the radio, if you speed, how hard you stopped at a certain intersection, where you go each Saturday, and more. Feeling a little paranoid?

Just like the information captured on the internet, all these tidbits of data are bought and sold in markets for all kinds of companies. Databases are constructed with information about you from a variety of sources, creating the perfect marketing profile so you can be targeted for all sorts of advertising campaigns and so on. After all, you’re a fish in a barrel and marketers see you as easy pluckings.

Privacy is a disappearing asset in the information age. Not only do we have our cars spying on us for marketers and others, the push for smart cities would track your movements precisely even if you decide to go for a walk. One day people will rise up and reclaim their God-given rights but with billions or even trillions of dollars at stake, don’t expect corporations and governments to walk things back willingly.

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