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'Smartphones on wheels' draw regulators' attention| GuyWhoKnowsThings

In the American imagination, car keys and driver's licenses have long represented freedom, autonomy, and privacy. But modern cars, which have hundreds of sensors, cameras and Internet connectivity, are now potential spy machines that act in ways that drivers don't fully understand.

This worries legislators and regulators.

On Tuesday, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts sent a letter to Lina Khan, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, urging the agency to investigate automakers for sharing driver location information with police. The senators, both Democrats, say this sharing can “seriously threaten Americans' privacy” by revealing their visits to protests, health clinics, places of worship, support groups or other sensitive locations.

“As far-right politicians escalate their war on women, I am especially concerned about cars revealing people crossing state lines to obtain an abortion,” Senator Wyden said in a statement.

According to experts, the government's attention to the automobile industry is intensifying due to the increased technological sophistication of modern automobiles.

researchers for the Government Accounting Office I recently went car shopping, undercover, to see if sellers were overstating the autonomous driving capabilities. in a march reportThe agency concluded that consumers do not fully understand crash avoidance technologies and driver support systems, the improper use of which “can compromise their safety benefits and even pose a risk on the road.”

The Federal Communications Commission and California lawmakers want to prevent mobile car apps from being used to stalking and harassment. The FCC has proposed regulate car manufacturers under the Secure Connections Act, originally aimed at telephone carriers, while California is likely to approve a law that would accomplish the same thing: It would require car companies to cut off abusers' remote access to victims' cars.

“No survivor of domestic violence and abuse should have to choose between giving up their car and allowing themselves to be harassed and harmed by those who can access their connectivity and data,” Jessica Rosenworcel, who heads the FCC, said in a statement.

Privacy regulators have opened investigations. California's privacy regulator has been investigating the use of data from connected cars for almost a year, while the FTC already appears to be acting letter Senator Markey sent a message in February urging the agency to investigate the privacy practices of automakers.

Last month, the FTC required reports from drivers who objected to how their car data had been used. An agency investigator contacted a man named in a New York Times article whose insurance premium increased after General Motors provided data on his driving behavior to the insurance industry. (“Because FTC investigations are not public, we generally do not comment on whether we are investigating a particular matter,” an agency spokesperson said.)

“In my opinion, there has been very little oversight of automakers' privacy policies, so the more watchdogs the better,” Senator Wyden said.

The latest letter to the FTC reveals the results of a year-long inquiry among 14 automakers that, according to Senator Wyden's office, had collectively received more than 1,400 law enforcement requests for location information over the past two years. .

Only five of the automakers (GM, Honda, Ford, Tesla and Stellantis) required police to obtain a warrant before disclosing a car's current or historical whereabouts, and Ford recently enacted that requirement. Tesla is the only automaker that informs customers about these types of requests, according to the letter.

“In contrast, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Volkswagen, BMW, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Kia confirmed that they will disclose location data to US government agencies in response to subpoenas, which do not require a judge's approval.” , the senators wrote. to Ms. Khan. They said this violated a commitment automakers made in a series of privacy principles presented to the FTC a decade ago about how they would protect sensitive drivers' data.

“This is a complex issue; automakers are committed to protecting sensitive vehicle location information,” said Brian Weiss, spokesman for the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade association. vehicle is only provided to authorities in specific and limited circumstances, such as when the automaker receives a court order or in situations where there is an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death to an individual.”

Automakers typically retain a car's location information for years, up to 15 years in Hyundai's case. Of the 45 location data requests Hyundai received from police in the past two years, just over half involved stolen vehicles, company spokesman Ira Gabriel said.

“There is a renewed focus on cars and the data practices associated with them.,”said Andrew Crawford, policy advisor at the Center for Democracy and Technology. He attributed this to increased consumer awareness of modern car components and the fact that car data “may be reaching the people.” that they did not contemplateI didn't know and I didn't want to.

At the same time, however, some regulators are pushing automakers to put more technology into cars to improve road safety, which may require even more data collection.

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended Systems built into all new vehicles that would tell drivers to slow down when exceeding the speed limit. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken steps to require deterioration detection systems on all new vehicles that would prevent a car from running when the driver has been drinking or using drugs.

When it comes to car safety, the conversation has shifted from improving seat belts to installing more cameras and sensors, said Adonne Washington, an attorney with the Future of Privacy Forum who wrote a recent report on the privacy implications of proposed security systems.

For example, “a mandate for alcohol-detection technology in vehicles creates an entirely different category of information,” he said.

W. James Denvil, a partner at Hogan Lovells who has represented automakers, said greater scrutiny from regulators was expected.

The vehicles offer “extraordinary benefits,” he said. New technologies can improve safety and the driving experience, while car data can be used to improve transportation infrastructure.

“We have innovative technologies and old regulations,” Denvil said. “There will be some surprises and some obstacles along the way.”

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