While it is one thing to elect to be tracked by a company so they can provide you a service, it is completely another for them to sell that tracking information without explicit consent. History has repeatedly shown that anonymized data rarely is ever anonymous, usually requiring minimal effort to associate the “anonymous” data with an individual. It is even worse when the tracking is performed on people who have no desire to use a company’s service (or in the case of a used auto sale may have never used the company’s service). This is like buying a car with a CB in it and despite never picking up the mic every word you say being broadcast. In fact a microphone is part of the OnStar system, what is to stop them from revising their policies to say that by having OnStar equipment in your car you give them permission to record everything you say and sell “anonymized” conversations to the highest bidder?
To make matters worse, because the US Government already illegally taps every phone in the country (including mobiles) and since OnStar uses cellular telephone technology for its two-way communications the Government could conceivably track every OnStar equipped car in the country (and not just the cars whose owners pay for the service – which is a possibility even now). In a worst case scenario the Government could even piggy back the OnStar communications to turn on the OnStar mic or control any of the other onboard systems OnStar has access to (like the ignition). While this is just conjecture the fact remains, the US Government has no problem illegally spying on its citizens and OnStar is going to start tracking every car infested with its hardware. Why wouldn’t they take advantage of this to better spy on protect its citizens?
What do you think? Has OnStar crossed a line? Will the Government take advantage of this move? Let us know in the comments.
Update: A rep from OnStar’s PR firm just dropped by the comments and left the following statement, “We value our customers’ privacy and security and have never sold any personally identifiable information to any third party.” He goes on to link to a video they put together regarding the new terms and conditions, scroll on down if you’re interested. Do you think this adequately addresses the concerns raised by the new terms and conditions changes? Let us know in the comments.
Update: Onstar has reversed their decision to continue tracking equipped vehicles after service is cancelled. (Read press release)
automotive, cars, Conspiracy, GM, OnStar, Privacy, spying, surveillance, wiretap
On September 21, 2011
By John D
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