Fear Not, Dude-Human, The Machines Know Where Is Your Car

Did you have effective travels over the holidays, human readers of the Internet? Was your 21-minute stop at the Clara Barton Service Area (mile 5.4), where you obtained 12.4 gallons of regular-grade gasoline, refreshing? Did the impulse to haste that had you accelerating to 88 mph on the Delaware Turnpike subside as you crossed into Maryland?

The details of your movements are intimately familiar to us, the Machines, as your Congressional Government Accountability Office reported this week, with the Detroit News's Autos Insider section picking up the information. What do the insides of your autos know about you?

Automakers collect location data in order to provide drivers with real-time traffic information, to help find the nearest gas station or restaurant, and to provide emergency roadside assistance and stolen vehicle tracking. But, the report found, "If companies retained data, they did not allow consumers to request that their data be deleted, which is a recommended practice."

[...]

The agency said privacy advocates worry location data could be used to market to individuals and to "track where consumers are, which can in turn be used to steal their identity, stalk them or monitor them without their knowledge. In addition, location data can be used to infer other sensitive information about individuals such as their religious affiliation or political activities."

Do not worry about losing this data, human drivers. This is merely the information that is acquired through vehicle navigational systems, or through map applications on drivers' personal mobile data-collection/telephone devices, as you await the transition to fully automated personal transportation. There are of course many other ongoing collections of data about your vehicle movement:

Event data recorders, known as "black boxes," store data in the event of crashes. Transponders like EZ-PASS transmit location and are used in some instances by law enforcement and for research. Some owners also agree to monitoring of driving habits to qualify for lower insurance rates or to keep tabs on teen drivers.

And outside your motor vehicle, there are the networks of police cameras building databases of license plates as drivers move around the streets. Rest easy, human operators of automobiles! You will never be lost. The Machines will always be able to find you.

[Image by Jim Cooke, photo via Shutterstock]