Are Our Cars Spying On Us And Should We Care?

Are Our Cars Spying On Us And Should We Care?

Are Our Cars Spying On Us And Should We Care?

Recent newspaper headlines have highlighted new technologies which, they claim, lead to cars spying on their drivers. But are they and, if so, should we be concerned?

Mercedes Knows Where You Are…

The newspaper headlines were a response to the discovery that Mercedes’ vehicles were, effectively, fitted with tracking devices. They included the likes of ‘Mercedes spies on drivers by secretly installing tracking devices in cars and passing information to bailiffs’.  Another was more to the point, ‘THERE’S A SPY IN YOUR MERCEDES’. The ‘spy’ is, in fact, a sophisticated sensor that has seemingly been installed in a significant amount of Mercedes vehicles; it remains unclear precisely how many, which models are affected or for how long this has been going on. Capable of pinpointing a vehicle’s exact location, the automaker insists they’re only activated in ‘extreme circumstances’. One such circumstance, it says, is when a finance customer defaults on their payments. It’s admitted, for example, that is shares tracking information with bailiffs and recovery firms.

Politicians like David Davis have called for the government to investigate. Davis said, “this is not the first time big business has behaved like Big Brother — but it’s rare to be quite as deceitful as this. I have to question whether it is even legal to pass on information to other people such as bailiffs”. Meanwhile, human rights groups and legal experts raised concerns over the “creeping growth of surveillance.”

Hysteria Or Big Brother? 

Whether Mercedes is an exception to the rule in the automotive industry, or just unlucky to have been caught, is unclear. But what is clear is that it’s struggling to make a fitting case for installing the tracking devices; that senior politicians are confident enough to raise concerns of legal ambiguity is, perhaps, indicative of the potential scope of the controversy. But whilst we may not like being spied on, the technology in Mercedes’ vehicles is by no means rare. In fact, if you’re reading this with a mobile phone in your pocket, your location is most likely known. Perhaps you’ve left your phone at home. In which case, did you buy a coffee with a debit or credit card? Again, your location is known. The idea of cars spying on us can’t be considered disturbing in isolation; if we’re at peace with the technology being used in other contexts.

But the situation in the automotive industry probably will get worse, in terms of privacy. Already manufacturers are working on mood-tracking technology (like JLR) and even shopping from behind the wheel; which, naturally, will require all of our financial and payment details. If we’re happy to use these services, we have to accept that they operate on the availability and exchange of data. In this sense, it’s less about cars spying on us and more about accepting that our behaviour forms a pattern; which is, in turn, used by businesses to make money out of us. That said, such technology (with a little tinkering) could almost certainly be used to acquire more information than our favourite music and shopping habits…

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