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The Data Scraping Car

Think of your recent model car as a big smartphone with wheels; much data can be gleaned from your car; where you are, how fast you are traveling, did you brake hard before the airbag deployed, and so on.

Trouble is, the rapid development of technology like this leaves a lagging response to privacy and ethical concerns. I don't recall giving permission for anyone to "monitor" my driving when I got my last car, for example, but the potential is there. And the potential is for car makers to use that data in whatever way they think will make them money.
Computer systems inside vehicles aren’t new, says [Vincent] Gogolek [executive director of FIPA]. Anti-lock brakes, for example, use an automated system to stop a car by pumping the brakes more rapidly than a human ever could.

In the beginning, those systems didn’t store any data as they operated. Then, in 1996, on-board diagnostics systems became standard in all vehicles.

The Connected Car

Mandated to monitor emissions as part of the Clean Air Act, these computer-based systems allowed technicians to diagnose problems by tapping into the basic data kept by your car. These are also the systems that operate the “check engine” light, giving warnings that service might be necessary.

As smartphones and wireless technology emerged and became more sophisticated, onboard car computers evolved to collect and send all sorts of data to manufacturers, insurance companies, call centres and other third parties.

“Suddenly you have more and more data being collected,” Gogolek says. “And wherever it’s being sent, it’s leaving the vehicle constantly.”


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