Is Your Car Spying On You?

Chris Woodyard and Jayne ODonnell

Your car already collects a lot of data about your driving, and it may soon collect much more. In fact, cars are packed with systems that can rat on you, with devices that can track your whereabouts and driving habits. There’s a mixed record on how data from cars are playing out in court; decisions are mixed when it comes to privacy in cars.

Is your car spying on you? If it’s a recent model, has a fancy infotainment system or is equipped with toll-booth transponders or other units you brought into the car that can monitor your driving, your driving habits or destination could be open to the scrutiny of others. If your car is electric, it’s almost surely capable of ratting you out.

You may have given your permission, or you may be the last to know.

At present, consumers’ privacy is regulated when it comes to banking transactions, medical records, phone and Internet use. But data generated by cars, which these days are basically rolling computers, are not.

All too often, “people don’t know it’s happening,” says Dorothy Glancy, a law professor at Santa Clara University in California who specializes in transportation and privacy. “People should be able to decide whether they want it collected or not.”

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