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Privacy Technology

Spies Riding Shotgun 353

Posted by michael
from the i-called-it-first dept.
Slashdot has covered before the proliferation of black boxes - event data recorders - in modern automobiles, that automatically record data about what the car has been doing and make it available after the fact to police, insurance companies, and people suing you - just about everyone except you, in fact. We'll add to that with yet another story about the computerized spy riding shotgun in your new car.
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Spies Riding Shotgun

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  • by bj8rn (583532) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:17PM (#10876870)
    You know, michael, you're beating a dead horse down the road. Hell, you even admit it yourself -- and then you still have to post another story on the subject, just to inform everyone that "you called it first". I mean, it's not as if this topic hasn't been discussed on Slashdot thousands of times before. Again and again, someone reports of the "terrible news" that new cars are being fitted with black boxes.

    And now, i can already see the flamewars erupting all over again. Some people crying out "1984!" and others saying that the first are stupid. It's nothing new. Neither is this story. Was it really necessary to report this? Do we really have to go through these flames all over again, if they will not add anything new to the story anyway?

  • PATHETIC (Score:2, Insightful)

    by starman71taylor (189083) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:28PM (#10876944)
    Your castigating him is bordering on the absurd. For your stated reasoning, of being "concerned about a flame war". What in the fuck does that have to do with a REAL NEWS STORY that yes, has been reported here and other places before, have to do with your retort. Simply stated, you don't care about people watching, monitoring, controlling your driving habits etc. People who care are alarmed by this development....as you should too, if your head was a little more concerned about the ISSUE rather than some childish "flamewar". PATHETIC.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:29PM (#10876947)
    Yes, it's necessary to report this. As often as possible. If no one reports it, then soon no one will be aware of it happening. One might argue that we already know, but the fact that we've already forgotten that the guy replacing Ashcroft is the same torture guy that called the Geneva Convention "quaint" is proof that our memories are very poor. So, yes, it's necessary to report the ongoing use of event data recorders in consumer products and their use against consumers as often as possible.
  • Pure Speculation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mike Rubits (818811) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:30PM (#10876952)
    I was expecting actual abuses of the system, but half of the article is about the things that can potentially happen? Sure, the Earth can implode tomorrow, but those aren't getting front page stories on Slashdot.

    Are there any cases where this has been abused? Why not post those?
  • I love my car.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EngMedic (604629) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:31PM (#10876960) Homepage
    I drive a '92 Honda Civic CX (nobody has them, they suck that much). It's a total hunk of junk, but i love it. It does precisely what i tell it to (at speeds of under 60 mph -- it don't accelerate too well), gets 35 mpg, and takes me from point A to point B. Now i have another reason -- because it's not looking at what i'm doing.
  • by LordZardoz (155141) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:32PM (#10876962)
    In a fiction series I read recently (Hominids / Humans / Hybreds by Robert J. Sawyer), in the Neanderthal world, everyone had an implanted companiion that recorded everything their host did, and uploaded it to an Alibi Archive. Essentially, everyone had a personal blackbox that they could look through later, or that could be used against them in criminal proceedings.

    One of the effects this had was that no one would be able to make false accusations against you, because your alibi archive would vindicate you instantly. It also meant that no one could really get away with crime.

    Of course, that view of things was largly utopian. The general arguement against this sort of tech in reality is that humans tend to be corruptible. So I dont think that trying such a concept for every person is ideal.

    However, for things like using a car, I dont see it as a problem. As long is the recording media is practically impossible to tamper with, (in so far as any attempt to alter the contents would be detected as an alteration). And also, the laws would need to be written such that they could only demand to see very specific time segments in the recording. Assuming that only yourself and government authorities could access it, it would solve alot of problems.

    - No one would drive like an asshat if someone would compell them to prove that they werent.

    - You would have ironclad proof against bogus tickets and insurance charges.

    - The only thing you really give up for the two previous items is the ability to lie about the above two.

    Then again, I dont drive at all, so its all a non issue to me.

  • by edittard (805475) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:34PM (#10876973)
    Bearing in mind that I 1) don't drive like a twat 2) hate people who do, I would quite like one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:38PM (#10876987)
    Sorry to AC, but submitted for your consideration:

    1) Who owns the info? You're in a crash*, can you seize the info form the other guy's car to prove your innocence?
    1a) How? Go to the junkyard and rip out his computer?
    1b) Should we all carry OBD2 down-loading recorders? Scene of the crash, you barge into the other car, plug in and download while the tow-truck is still attaching to drag it away?

    2) If you're in a crash*, how do you protect your rights of posession to the data? (You must agree that at the very least, posession of the car implies posession of any/all devices therein, so any data stored within those devices MAY have vague posession-rules, but holding the black box in your hands at least allows you control of that data...)

    3) How do I safely rig something to destroy or scramble my car's computer? As a last-ditch effort to protect my privacy, shouldn't I have a "Destroy" button somewhere? I'm thinking thermite, but maybe a strong capacitor might be better, both carry risks, but not as much as the data falling in the wrong hands BEFORE my lawyers have a chance to see it...) No news is better than bad news?

    *They're all "crashes" /.ers, there's no such thing as an accident. Someone's always going too fast.
  • You know what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StarKruzr (74642) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:40PM (#10876996) Journal
    I NEED the ability to lie about the above two. Why? Because I live in New York City, where speed limits are set arbitrarily low in really stupid places for the express purpose of allowing cops to pick up people for speeding and feed the city coffers.

    If anything, this technology SHOULD allow one to completely eliminate speed limits from the books. Exceeding the speed limit DANGEROUSLY can be called "reckless driving," so why do we have have to have extra laws for it in addition to reckless driving violations? For one reason only: those who make the laws realize that one can drive fast without driving dangerously, but if they let us do that they'd never make any money.

    Driving at 85 mph in the rain on a twisty road in the middle of the night with cars on it? Yes. Your ass should be prosecuted.

    Driving at 80 mph "in a 50" in the middle of the night, with not a cloud in the sky, on a completely empty, straight road? No.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:43PM (#10877006)
    What it comes down to is that everyone speeds.

    On one hand, I wish they would enforce it. So that the speed limits would go up, because if they gave out a ticket every time someone sped, the people would riot.

    And on the other hand, I think it'd be idiotic because the damn gubbmint would end up addicted to the ticket revenue.

    This is the same argument as DRM on computers.

    I buy a physical device, I should be able to utilize it in whatever manner I choose. If I do something stupid with it, say, AND cause someone's injury or death, I should be well punished.

    As John Stuart Mill said, "In all such cases there should be perfect freedom, legal and social, to do the action and stand the consequences."
  • Insurance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sgs-Cruz (526085) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:47PM (#10877029) Homepage Journal
    What worries me the most is the small savings you get on your insurance for installing a tracker unit that gives the insurance company the right to track you (your speed, time of day, location, etc.). At first it'll be a small savings, then, most people won't care, and everyone will have one, and then it'll basically be a large fine if you don't have one. I guess I'd better continue with my plan of biking everywhere; it's better for me anyway :)
  • by BitterOak (537666) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:57PM (#10877080)
    So I could switch it off at the precise moment that it might become useful to the innocent old dear I'm about to run down by driving like a dickhead?

    So, your assumption is that if I want a little privacy, I must be about to commit a crime. Why not insist that I have video cameras installed in my home in case I should decide to commit date rape some evening?

  • rat yourself out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @05:58PM (#10877085) Homepage Journal
    Amendment V [findlaw.com]:
    [...] nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself [...]

    But we're already compelled to give DNA, urine and tissue sample evidence, so paying for, maintaining and powering devices we own just to spy on us seems inevitable. That crazy old Constitution, with its quaint notions of human rights.
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:02PM (#10877109)
    Now that someone may be able to verify if we were all obeying the rules we were supposed to while driving. How come no one complained when the speed limits were put in place? How come no one rejects car rental policies when they read them, opting for the bus instead of their draconian conditions?

    How dare they monitor the speeds we drive, or where we go, in fact how dare they do it now with police and speed cams. This is a total outrage. I am so outraged I cant even be arsed to write the rest of this post because I must devote all my brain power to the massive invasion of my privacy thats happening at every level in Slashworld.
  • by nwbvt (768631) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:06PM (#10877129)
    Gee, its almost as if you were not supposed to drive them in an unsafe manner. Those bastards, trying to make sure you don't damage their car.
  • by metlin (258108) * on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:18PM (#10877176) Journal
    Giving in to someone you like is not weak-kneed. If anything, it's wonderful.
  • What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vwjeff (709903) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:24PM (#10877202)
    Some car-rental companies sneak riders into their contracts saying that you have to pay extra $$$ every time you excede the speed limit.

    So they charge you more when you signed the contract agreeing to the conditions. Always read everything before you sign. If you do not agree with the conditions don't sign it. Take your business somewhere else. They are not violating your rights in any way, shape, or form.
  • by g0hare (565322) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:27PM (#10877226)
    As long as you never ever do anything wrong, and never make a mistake, you'll be fine. If you're not guilty why do you care if everyone is watching you?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:28PM (#10877232)
    Yeah, just like people who use envelopes to send mail must be up to something criminal.

    Good citizens only send mail on postcards.
  • Re:You know what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_mad_poster (640772) * <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:30PM (#10877241) Homepage Journal

    So, your theory here is that laws are relative and that this has not been taken into consideration by the people in charge.

    Which makes the laws bogus.

    Which means you should lobby to get the laws fixed.

    Which is an entirely different problem than what's being discussed here.

  • My VW (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Magickcat (768797) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:32PM (#10877252)
    I have a 2003 Volkswagen Golf, and have read that the data recording box in it records the number of time the ABS is engaged, fuel emisions, average speed and trip distance, number of times the seat belt isn't worn by the driver - pretty much everything.

    What I hate about it is that the car demands it's service with a flashing light and tone, only a Volkswagen mechanic can turn the alert off. The dataport is hidden behind a removal panel below the radio, and there's no way in hell that my independant mechanic can get the thing to stop beeping at me because I didn't volunteer to be overcharged by a VW mechanic.

    Personally, I think that all the information on black boxes should be accessible to the driver, and additionally, that there should be a standard interface port and protocol so that all mechanics can access the black box. I also think that the exact information being collated should be revealed before you purchase the car.

    I'm happy if police can access the information in the case of a serious crash, but I don't want the information being provided to manufacturers without knowing exactly what my car is telling them. I don't have anything to hide about my driving habits etc and I am a safe driver and don't speed, but I resent not being able to choose my own independant mechanic without a great deal of inconvinience, and I don't like not knowing exactly what my car is recording.
  • by Ender_Stonebender (60900) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:38PM (#10877291) Homepage Journal
    While they are all crashes, they are not all caused by someone going to fast. (Your two statements, considered seperately, are both true - but not connected.) Occasionally, the crashes are caused by some asshat deciding to turn left in front of someone doing the speed limit (or less!) without enough time or space to brake to avoid the crash. (And don't even try "if you see someone looking to make a left turn, you should slow down" - what, I should stop and let them in on a two-lane, 50 MPH road? Bah!) There are also crashes caused by equipment failure - again, no one going to fast, but the person who should have been maintaining the vehicle and did not is responsible for the crash. I could sit here and come up with counterexamples to "Someone's always going too fast" all night - but I won't, because I've got better things to do.

  • by Ender_Stonebender (60900) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:47PM (#10877398) Homepage Journal
    The fact of the matter is that these are only good for people attacking you. If they added a camera that looked out the front window of the vehicle, and recorded the last 30 seconds of data from that as well, it would be good. Then, not only could the know what was done, but might have some clue as to why it was done. Knowing what happened without knowing why it happened...it's pretty much useless for things like this.

  • Re:You know what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StarKruzr (74642) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:57PM (#10877479) Journal
    Of course it's been "taken into consideration by the people in charge." That doesn't mean they care. Speed limit laws are never going to get significantly changed or repealed. Those who benefit from them (insurance companies and state and city governments) can always fall back on the ironclad argument (despite any evidence to the contrary) about them protecting people's safety. How can we change or remove speed limits, they will howl, when it will KILL SO MANY BABIES?!?!

    Forget it. Passing laws is ten times easier than getting them removed from the books, and in this case, getting them removed is impossible. The best you can do is buck the system and fight against any additional restrictions being placed on your liberties.
  • by Sai Babu (827212) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:04PM (#10877536) Homepage

    "You can't shut it off, and you can't manipulate it,"

    Sounds like a challange to me!

    "...the driver who races his Miata one weekend and files a warranty claim the next. What are the chances that his data recorder will rat him out"

    The automakers will have to drastically change their advertising. You can't sell a 'aports car' based on performance driving and later argue that using the vehicle as advertised violates it's warranty! Hell, Chrysler is HAPPY if you race their Neon! They will even sell you parts to hot-rod it that don't void the warranty and with others it's the old wink wink nudge nudge, take this out before you bring it in for warranty work. No, car dealers will NOT use performance driving to void your warranty. The manufacturers won't let them. THEY WANT TO SELL THE CARS!. Feedback to manufacturers from performance cars might even give us better cars! I still don't like it happening without my permission though.

    One would think that, 'you own the car, you own the data' would apply. You certainly own the recorder and hacking it could be a lot of fun.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ph33r th3 g(O)at (592622) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:08PM (#10877563)
    Yeah, because everyone reads through every paragraph at the airport car rental counter on every business trip. And has an attorney on retainer to just ring up on his cell if there are any questions. Your attitude is precisely why consumer protection laws were enacted, and the problem the OP describes of sneaky contract riders is one that would be most appropriately addressed by one.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:09PM (#10877572) Homepage Journal
    Pulling the plug IS shutting it off. Most of the "black boxes" are actually integrated into the ECU/PCM which is a $300-1000 part that your car will not run without. The information can be subpoena'd whether you're in a crash or not, like any other information you might have.`
  • Brilliant (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:37PM (#10877758) Homepage
    Board spokesman Keith Holloway said public concerns about personal privacy shouldn't get in the way of providing a valuable tool for accident investigators.

    Yeah, don't let public concerns stop you from doing whatever the hell you want. It doesn't stop anyone else.

  • by multiplexo (27356) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:43PM (#10877786) Journal
    I really love this part of the article:

    The National Transportation Safety Board called for requiring standardized recorders in all light-duty vehicles after it was unable to ascertain what happened when an elderly driver plowed through a farmer's market in Santa Monica, Calif., last year, killing and injuring scores of people.

    OK, let me be the first to call it since the NTSB is a bunch of politically correct pussies who don't want to piss off the fucking geezers in the AARP. The guy who caused this accident was too fucking old to drive, OK! He was 86 years old, according to this article [cbs2.com] he had "... a medical condition called a "second-degree heart block" that can cause the heart to stop beating for several seconds.", raising the question of why we are letting someone who has a bad heart that can stop beating during times of stress drive a motor vehicle. This guy's reflexes were gone, he couldn't adequately control the pedals because he had had hip replacement surgeries he might have had cognitive deficits as well as severe visual ones. He was just too fucking old to operate a motor vehicle, and guess what! There's millions more like him out there. Old folks are incredibly dangerous behind the wheel. We don't need black boxes in every car, we need annual vision, reaction and cognition testing for all drivers over 70 years old, and those who don't pass lose their licenses right then and there. While we're at it we can strip the licenses of anyone who has more than one DUI or who causes an accident where someone loses life or limb, this would go a long way towards making our roads a lot safer.

    Does this suck if you're one of the old people in question? Well yes it does, but I find it interesting that the people who whine about restricting the driving privileges of the elderly have no problem with restricting the driving privileges of teenagers. Admittedly teenagers are bad drivers, but they're going to get better as they age, someone who's 16 years old will probably be a better and safer driver in 10 years when they're 26, the same cannot be said for a 70 year old. And while it might suck for elderly drivers to lose their licenses it kind of sucks for the rest of us when they lose control of a vehicle and kill 10 people and send 63 more to the hospital or in my case fail to yield right of way on a sunny day, plow into my motorcycle and cost me my left leg below the knee.

  • by twitter (104583) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:46PM (#10877808) Homepage Journal
    Oregon is working on a toll-road system that downloads global positioning satellite data and odometer readings at the gasoline pump to collect fuel taxes on each gallon based on the amount a motorist drives.

    Brilliant. Instead of estimating an average car mileage and using that as a gauge of road use per gallon and adding a fixed price to each gallon of gasoline, Oregon is going to show us how smart they can be! They will get to pay for the development, deployment and upkeep of totally unnecessary and invasive computer system. Imagine people's glee at getting to pay more for my gasoline because they buy an economy car that gets more miles to the gallon.

  • Re:You know what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StarKruzr (74642) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:54PM (#10877846) Journal
    I love people who think the law makes what's right, rather than what's right making the law.

    I also can't believe how many times I've gotten into precisely that argument on Slashdot.
  • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... g ['ynd' in gap]> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @10:23PM (#10878581) Homepage
    Or perhaps you should just learn to be a decent parent and, oh, I don't know, TRUST that you raised her right? Jesus. Kids do dumb things. It's a given. Your job is to teach her how to fly, not to fly with her every second of every day. That only teaches her to be dependent.
  • by back_pages (600753) <back_pages@noSpAM.cox.net> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @10:32PM (#10878620) Journal
    Public policy is made according to money, not common sense. As long as you resist this truth, you will find yourself at odds with the universe. Old people vote and old people have AARP and other organizations. Old people having accidents produces an economy for medical services, lawyers, and auto mechanics to name just a few. Public policy is made according to money, not common sense.
  • Hello, free market (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @03:36AM (#10879714)
    Hey, newsflash folks -- OnStar is not surgically implanted into your fetal skull just prior to birth. It is not tethered to your leg at age five, it is does not follow you home at night when you are sixteen. OnStar is a product that comes as an option on some cars. Does the idea of a car nanny creep you out? Then feel free to buy one of the millions of cars currently for sale that come nanny free.

    What gets me is that essentially what annoys people about these car nannies is that it makes it more difficult for them to lie about their bad driving behaviour. What they neglect is that, for the good drivers out there, these devices help you prove that a wreck was not your fault. They also call 911 for you while you're lieing unconcious in a ditch with your legs wrapped several times around your ass. Sounds handy to me but, hey, what do I know, I don't wear a foil hat.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @03:37AM (#10879717)
    Spoken like a snarky 18 year old. Moron.
  • by legirons (809082) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @08:58AM (#10880440)
    "He was just too fucking old to operate a motor vehicle, and guess what! There's millions more like him out there. Old folks are incredibly dangerous behind the wheel. We don't need black boxes in every car, we need annual vision, reaction and cognition testing for all drivers over 70 years old, and those who don't pass lose their licenses right then and there. While we're at it we can strip the licenses of anyone who has more than one DUI or who causes an accident where someone loses life or limb, this would go a long way towards making our roads a lot safer."

    There was once a good slashdot comment:

    Q: "why are aeroplanes safer than cars?"

    A: "Because if pilot rules were applied to drivers, then 1/3 the population would never be allowed to drive at all, 2/3 of the rest would only be allowed to drive 50cc cars in clear weather at 30mph, and the remainder would have spent 10 years learning, get retested every year, and be grounded at the first suspicion of human-error"

    Now if only they could apply those same standards to those in control of motor vehicles, and perhaps update the driving test. I don't care that someone's demonstrated that they were once able to control a small car whilst sober, calm, undistracted, and fully-rested, it doesn't have any bearing on the driving they actually do.
  • Re:You know what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_mad_poster (640772) * <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @09:34AM (#10880545) Homepage Journal

    You didn't answer my question - are you suggesting that some liberty to break the law is infringed here?

    Idiot mods. It's the same old "i'm going to use my own personal moral ideals to try and justify my behavior in the larger context of a society" argument. That's not insightful, it's been said by childish dolts like the parent poster a million times before to justify their illegitimate behavior. This stupid "view" of things is especially prevelant in threads where numbskulls use it to try and justify the fact that they steal games/movies/music/whatever.

    Fucking idiot mods need to go look up the definition of "insightful".

Computer programmers do it byte by byte.