In recent years, companies in the United States and abroad have increasingly turned to vehicle tracking devices and remote shut off devices to offer lower priced insurance products and auto loans to higher risk borrowers. On the insurance side, these products may be as simple as tracking the mileage of vehicles for “pay-as-you-drive” products, or may track the hours during which consumers drive, their speeds, and their driving habits for “safe driver” discounts. For auto loans and car sales, products range from GPS devices to remote starter-interrupt devices, allowing lenders to remotely disable vehicle ignition. The type of data gathered by these devices also continues to expand over time. Media outlets from Bloomberg to the New York Times have published recent stories about these and related technologies, further driving consumer awareness of vehicle monitoring devices.
Law enforcement agencies have also used car tracking devices in several high profile investigations. In one recent story, a car dealership had implanted a GPS device on a suspected kidnapper’s vehicle when they sold him the vehicle. After an employee recognized the suspect on the news, the police apprehended the suspect by tracking his vehicle.
However, the increasing awareness of these products has also spawned an increase in privacy concerns over the devices. Earlier this year, the European Parliament passed regulations mandating installation of an eCall system in new vehicles. The eCall device would transmit the vehicle location to emergency services in the event of an emergency or crash, whereas the event data recorders, like “black boxes”, record information about the vehicle. The Directorate General for Internal Policies highlighted the privacy concerns in the regulations and with the event data recorders that will be installed in the vehicles, and recommended changes to the regulations to address these concerns. The ACLU has likewise voiced privacy concerns for technology such as license plate readers, GPS trackers, and even cell phone location tracking.
As vehicles become increasingly connected, and vehicle monitoring devices are used for a broader range of products and services, companies should be aware of the increasing spotlight on privacy concerns with these devices in the U.S. and abroad.