Skip to comments.U.S. Automakers and the NSA – Peas in a Pod
Posted on 01/16/2014 5:44:45 AM PST by Kaslin
Progressive Insurance wants its insurance agents to take a 30-day ride-along with its customers. While the agents themselves are not physically in the vehicles, the Progressive Snapshot device -- which functions much like a cars Event Data Recorder, or EDR (also known as a black box) -- constantly monitors and records every move a driver makes; including how often drivers slam on the brakes, how many miles they drive, and how much time they spend driving at high-risk hours (Midnight to 4:00 AM). Progressive claims collecting such data will save money for safe-drivers, but in actuality it is simply a way for the company to easily identify risky drivers -- all from voluntary participation!
The notion that drivers voluntarily reveal their driving habits is more myth than fact in todays internet-wired world. The reality is that American drivers have little clue as to what data is being collected on them, who is able to access the data, and how it is eventually used.
Automakers are a tight-lipped bunch when the discussion turns to the data collected by the products they manufacture. However, in a rare example of frankness on the subject, Ford Motor Company Global Vice President of Marketing and Sales, Jim Farley, put it bluntly during a recent trade show panel: 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.
Not surprisingly, Farleys boardroom bosses at corporate headquarters immediately dismissed his comments, claiming the company is absolutely committed to protecting [their] customers privacy. The corporate big wigs stressed Ford does not track customers, and that no data is transmitted from the vehicle without the customers express consent. Such assurances ring hollow. In fact, the very words used by Ford to diffuse Farleys comments actually confirmed that vehicle owners neither really know nor control the data collected by their vehicles black boxes.
Moreover, a recently-released report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sheds much-needed light on this developing controversy. The report, commissioned by Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, notes that massive quantities of data are being captured and shared by the vehicles we operate, and that consumers have virtually no knowledge or control of the process.
A New York Times article on consumer privacy detailed technology available in the new Chevrolet Corvette. The story highlighted the whiz-bang technology that can visually record the drivers point-of-view, in addition to recording noises or conversations taking place inside the car. Chevy claims this information, recorded digitally by a device inside the glove box, belongs to the consumer -- ostensibly designed to improve a drivers performance driving.
As for transparency, the fact is that most vehicle data collection techniques are mentioned only in passing by manufacturers somewhere in the owners manual (if at all). Most consumers become aware this type of information has been or is being collected on them only when it appears as evidence in a civil or criminal proceeding against them.
The privacy and liability issues associated with the [data recorders] are as real as with any archived data that can be used by or against individuals, William Kohler, co-chair of law firm Clark Hills Automotive and Manufacturing Practice Group, told the New York Times.
Corporations are able to gather such troves of data largely because they are not bound by the same constitutionally-imposed limits on searches and seizures that limit government collection of information -- or which are supposed to limit government. Making the problem worse has been the unwillingness of the Congress in recent years to enact meaningful safeguards for the privacy of vehicle owners and drivers.
Under current law, there is little to stop corporations from turning over consumer information gleaned from vehicle black boxes to government agencies. In essence, the government can use third-parties corporations, like Ford, TomTom or Progressive, to collect vehicle data without restraint, then ask for or demand the data it wants. There does not have to be an imminent need for the data (you know, just in case) -- a key requirement for constitutionally-valid searches under the 4th Amendment.
Thankfully, consumer backlash against Verizon, Google, and other tech companies for their cooperation with NSAs now publicly-known electronic snooping, suggests the public does have a threshold for how cozy private companies should be allowed to get with Uncle Sam. It remains to be seen, however, whether they actually will demand action to protect against the dangers posed their basic freedom, by such unfettered collection of data about what they do when they get behind the wheel of their car or pick-up truck.
By the time one reaches my "mileage" there should be plenty of claims data (or lack thereof) for me to allow an accurate assessment of risk w/o any other invasion of privacy methods.
I wonder if they record the information from my 1956 Ford Victoria or my 1983 Mustang?
I drive a 1996 Oldsmobile, and don’t plan ever to buy a new car, it will be a long time before I buy a car that comes with a “black box.”
My question is: If a car comes with a “black box,” is it legal to remove or smash it?
Perhaps Progressive (I can not stand that woman with the red smear of lipstick in the commercials)could provide the black box to all the “owners” of illegal guns to help hold down the crime, ... you know kinda like Obamaphones .... we could call them ObamaBlackBoxes.
Your insurance will no doubt have fine print that presumes the casr has not beeen “modified”. Therefore, modifying the car would have the effect of invalidating any insurance claim. And, no doubt, disconnecting the box would be detectable by the box or the lack of “reasonable” data - “How could you have been in an accident since your black box says the car was last moved three years ago?”
Currently, it would not be against the law. However, smashing or removing said box would likely cause your computer-controlled car to become an expensive brick.
Is Flo aware of this?
(I answered my own question.)
Only if they hide one of these under the seat:
I had been thinking of doing an EFI conversion on my '65 Mustang, but this stuff is renewing my appreciation for the simplicity of the carburetor. Hmmm... maybe Webers instead of a Holley, when finances permit.
You don’t want efi on that ride!
A nice holley double pumper quad will rule!
Yes I know the efi will deliver a more punch, especially if you drop a 302 crate engine in her, but I still love the 289 :)
Check inside the big “B” pillar, driver’s side, on the Crown Vic for the tracking/recording device. The Mustang has it hidden above the top of the glove box liner.
Please change the batteries while you are at it, our signals are getting a bit weak & fuzzy.
Duracells, only, please.
Have a nice day!
You have the 289 or the inline 200 six cylinder? There are EFI routes for both which are junk-yard sourced. That means cheap.
Mr. GG2 was thinking of trading in the Dodge for a new F150 but not now. If nobody buys the new fords I would guess the GPS tracking boxes would go away like magic.
It’s a 289-4v, 4-speed car. I already have the intake assembly from a ‘93 Cobra - fuel rails, throttle body, mass air meter and all. You’re right - the price was attractive. Someone had already grabbed the computer out of that salvage yard car, though - so I’ll need an ECU and a wiring harness to make it all work.
“My question is: If a car comes with a black box, is it legal to remove or smash it?”
Additionally, how many computers does a 2014 Mustang have? nine or ten? All you really need is powerplant, transmission and braking. Jailbreak 'em to work alone, and ya got a sweet ride.
Enjoy the coffee maker and the beanbag chair I installed in the trunk for your comfort, but your gonna have to do the legwork, you ain't gonna follow me around with a computer.
Hmm Anyone know the year when these black boxes were first installed?
So the power leads somehow get disconnected what a crying shame.
I think I’ll keep my 2004 Hyundai Sonata.
The factory Ford engine control for the 5.0 pushrod V8 is the EEC-IV system, which is pre-"on-board-diagnostics". Very minimal data logging, with trouble codes communicated via flashes of the "Check Engine" light. No GPS circuitry at all, as far as I can tell. Definitely pre-WiFi.
There are aftermarket ECUs out there which plug right in to the manufacturer's wiring harness (all for pre-OBD cars or for off-road-only newer vehicles).