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Networked Cars: Good For Safety, Bad For Privacy 327

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-good-for-lan-parties-on-the-go dept.
jfruh writes "Networked cars — cars that can identify each other's location and prevent collisions — are coming soon, and will be a boon for safety, with one estimate having them cut accidents by 70 percent. But what happens to all the data the car will collect — about your location and driving behavior? It's worrisome that nobody seems to be thinking seriously about the privacy side of the equation."
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Networked Cars: Good For Safety, Bad For Privacy

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  • by zbobet2012 (1025836) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:18PM (#41230519)
    They don't have to be, if you just generate a guid for each trip rather than for a single car for its life time the problem is solved.
    • by Velex (120469)

      DELETE FROM MyDamnedTripsTableWithGuids
      WHERE DATEDIFF(hour, created_stamp, CURRENT_TIMESTAMP) > 24)

      Am I doin it rite?

      O I forgot, this is corporate America (FUCK YEAH!)

      INSERT INTO MyWaitingToBeDataminedArchivedTrips (GUID, created_stamp, lat, lng, protocol_vendor, protocol_version, odometer, font_left_tire_pressure, front_right_tire_pressure, rear_left_tire_pressure, rear_right_tire_pressure) -- note: HR 84732XYZ prevents us from storing the VIN and various other diagnostic codes and *snort* iden

    • by js33 (1077193) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:49PM (#41230735)
      Yes that's possible in theory, but we all know in practice that never happens. There is absolutely no way on earth that a bunch of proprietary computerized networked gimmickry required to be in your car will ever be designed to protect your privacy. Money and power will inevitably demand unfettered corporate and government access to this data as well as extra restrictions on your own access to it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by davester666 (731373)

        Yay. Finally, we'll be able to get rid of all those license plate scanners in police cars and along roadways.

        Doh, now they'll be replaced with smaller, cheaper, more accurate devices that log all the info your car is broadcasting.

        Of course, it'll be easier for criminals to subvert, because now they won't have to have a fake license plate, they can just broadcast fake info.

        Win-win-win for everyone!

        • by fractoid (1076465) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:05AM (#41232637) Homepage
          The thing is, unless we assume that it's still meant to be possible for individuals to band together and overthrow the government by force (which, let's face it, is unlikely these days) there's no reason to be upset about police or anyone else getting data on how you drive... Unless you feel entitled to speed (or otherwise break the road rules) sometimes. Generally, that's what 'privacy' comes down to; you want to break some rules (laws, road rules, social norms, whatever) or at least to have some chance of getting away with doing so. Take drug tests, for example - I couldn't care less if I get drug tested because I don't use them. If I did, I'd be all about the "privacy issues" surrounding drug testing. Take GPS tracking on vehicles - I'm strongly opposed to it because I feel entitled to at least a sporting chance of getting away with it if I ever do feel it worthwhile to break road rules. You do too, or you wouldn't object.

          What I think will be interesting is, once ubiquitous data is available on all peoples' behaviour at all times (and it will be, sooner or later), whether public pressure builds to change some of our stupider laws. There are a great number of laws which in principle are not always what the average person would call 'just' - but we tolerate them because 'they're only applied to bad people'. Once automated law enforcement is implemented, people will start realising just how important discretion is, or alternately, just how many laws should be fixed or repealed.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Unless you feel entitled to speed (or otherwise break the road rules) sometimes.

            Nothing to hide, nothing to fear! Just let the government install surveillance cameras in every room of your house. What are you hiding? And because it's theoretically possible (but highly unlikely) for individuals to overthrow the government, the government is made up of perfect beings who could never harm you and could never make mistakes.

            I couldn't care less if I get drug tested because I don't use them.

            I don't use them, but I care for other people. It's bad because it punishes people who don't do drugs simply because there are people that do. Much like the TSA.

            You do too, or you wouldn't object.

            No, I ju

          • by shentino (1139071) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @06:47AM (#41232945)

            There's this thing called "probable cause" that nicely balances the state's need to prevent crime with my need for privacy.

            If they want to search my trip logs they can go to a judge and get a fucking warrant first.

            Otherwise they can keep their nose out of my business and let me join the pursuit of happiness without government interference.

            Government snooping is interference no matter how benign its intentions. The TSA holding up the line for searches is just one example of many of government paranoia turning into a hassle for me.

            If the feds can't come up with a good reason to mess with my life they need to stay the hell out of my way so I can go on about my business.

            Because even if I have nothing to hide, putting my own life on hold to satiate their curiosity is a waste of my time.

            And that's assuming a rogue hacker doesn't bust through the government's firewalls and scoop up my personal information.

            Even a well meaning government that is incompetent can cause trouble if my information falls into the wrong hands.

            All the more reason for the government not to possess it in the first place unless they actually need it. Fewer ways to fail, and it keeps my tax dollars from being wasted on precious man hours diverted to rummaging through personal lives that are better off left alone.

          • I couldn't care less if I get drug tested because I don't use them. If I did, I'd be all about the "privacy issues" surrounding drug testing.

            We live in a world where you can be fired for eating a poppyseed muffin, if it suits HR. You should care, this is about basic personal rights. I guess you never read the poem about how there being no one left to stand up for you when they come to get you. You are a sorry excuse for a citizen.

    • by PPH (736903)
      Simper than that: My Lucas Electric auto computer just blew its fuse again.
    • by wvmarle (1070040) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @12:16AM (#41231239)

      For networking cars and collission avoidance, you don't need to know which individual car is where. Just like when you're driving now, you see "oh, there's a car", not "oh, there's car nr KW1234". Which car there is, doesn't matter. Just that there is a car.

      Network communication can for sure also be set up in that manner. Using a random ID for each connection (of course you need something to identify a connection) should be good enough. No need to log which cars you encountered, it's not even needed to log that you encountered a car.

      Ask a human driver about their trip, how many cars they enountered, and they don't know. No-one remembers, as it's totally unimportant. You often don't remember which traffic light was red, and which was green. Unless something out of the ordinary happens most people don't have any memory of a routine trip, other than that they did it.

      • by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @02:51AM (#41232045) Homepage

        One moment there are two cars near you; one to the left and on a long distance in front of you. A few seconds later there is a car to the left and one very closely in front of you. Does it make a difference if the car in front of you now has just overtaken you (soon to be followed by another car already on your left) or whether it was the car a long distance away that is standing still?

        Traffic is dynamic, so you need to be able to track all it's dynamic components.

        You may not read license plates, but you are identifying and remembering cars near you all the time.

  • by giampy (592646) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:19PM (#41230529) Homepage

    ... what you are doing, but you better start looking for a lawyer :-)

  • Worse? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:21PM (#41230553) Homepage Journal

    Um, considering that more than likely, every person in the car is already being tracked at a personal level via their cell phone (and other devices, such as tablets, etc), I don't see this as being all that much worse than the de facto privacy of the modern digital world.

    • Re:Worse? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ThorGod (456163) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:33PM (#41230633) Journal

      So make vehicles only identify where they are (and how fast they're moving, etc). You don't have to put an ID to every vehicle...just like a you don't have to identify individual electrons to direct electron flow competently.

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        In the absence of "smart infrastructure" (which has far more dramatic "Big Brother" concerns), to get the dramatic traffic-flow benefits cars need to "discuss" what's going on around/ahead of them, which is simplified by giving each car a unique "name" (ID), not to mention that networked communication typically requires a unique ID such as a MAC address, which provides a convenient ready-made name.

        Your vehicle can probably only directly detect the vehicles immediately adjacent to it, to build a picture larg

    • by drrilll (2593537)
      Not to mention they advertise their every move on Facebook or Twitter
      • Not to mention they advertise their every move on Facebook or Twitter

        Exactly. Just because THEY don't value their privacy, doesn't me WE don't a have right to ours.

    • Agreed. I am more interested if it means I don't need insurance. I figure the car company can cover all of it to ensure they make the safest product.
      • by ThorGod (456163)

        That's a good point! Insurance wont go the way of a dinosaur, but it should get so cheap as to be negligible.

    • by tooyoung (853621)
      Exactly - the location of your driving is already trackable, whether by cell phone or a combination of license plate and traffic camera. The real difference here is that a networked car could provide more information on how you're driving. Now, I'm no fan of the "if you've go nothing to hide..." argument, but I could see convincing arguments that this may be a positive thing.

      Consider the following situation - you get into an accident with another person. Records show that you generally stay within the
      • Yep you are basically saying that the information is only viewable in specific instances.
        Its only when someone has access to it without a specific reason when you get privacy implications.

      • Whe look at records when you can look at the data related to the accident?
  • Not worried. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taikiNO@SPAMcox.net> on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:23PM (#41230571)

    There's a giant plate identifying me or the driver on the back of the car(and in most states, front too).

    Given the chance of damage I don't know if privacy is something I want in a car.

    • Re:Not worried. (Score:5, Informative)

      by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:45PM (#41230713)
      There's a giant plate identifying me or the driver on the back of the car(and in most states, front too).
      Given the chance of damage I don't know if privacy is something I want in a car.


      You're not thinking long or deep enough.
      Yes, everyone could theoretically be followed and logged today. Currently, that is far too time consuming. But this type of thing, and ANPR, has the potential to store everyones movements, forever.

      You are not interesting enough to worry about today. But a decade from now, when you decide to run for school board or state congress...you will be interesting to your opponent.
      For the price of a case of beer to his brother in law the cop....your opponent can delve into all of your movements for the last decade with a simple SQL statement. "Oh look... RyuuzakiTetsuya frequented a gay bar back in 2013!"
      (Yes, you were just there with some college buddies, no big deal. But now you have to defend against the increasingly negative political ads - and in some areas of the country, that type of thing matters)

      All of your movements, everyone you hang out with...on someone else's server, forever.
      • I openly frequent gay bars now. Your point?

        I mean, yes, my movements could be tracked and blah blah blah. On foot, bad idea. Sure, I'll grant that. But right now I don't have a car. I live in Brooklyn, I take mass transit everywhere. My metro card identifies me and tracks me.

        • by lakeland (218447)

          The point, as you probably are aware, is that we currently tend to reject anyone we see dirt on.

          You visited a gay bar - you're not like me, I should break off our friendship. Or you posted a drunken party to Facebook, can I risk my company's image by employing you? Or ... etc. At the moment most of what we do is not carefully tracked and tagged to us, so we can do normal things with a reasonable expectation that it won't get dredged up out of context. However as tracking becomes more prevalent, that assumpt

          • But who knows, maybe the next generation will require their leaders to have lived their entire lives squeaky clean.

            i suspect that the existing ruling elite will learn to teach their kids how to avoid leaving "incriminating stuff" online, teach to avoid facebook etc. after all their kids will be brought up to know that they are likely to be the ruling elite and will understand the need. the average joe however doesn't believe he or his kids will ever be in the public eye so won't bother.

            the upshot will be

            • But who knows, maybe the next generation will require their leaders to have lived their entire lives squeaky clean.

              i suspect that the existing ruling elite will learn to teach their kids how to avoid leaving "incriminating stuff" online, teach to avoid facebook etc. after all their kids will be brought up to know that they are likely to be the ruling elite and will understand the need.

              Or, they will hire a professional "Face" to be the public face of their offspring, while protecting the real offspring with jamming devices against recording... said offspring will meanwhile indulge in building pyramids for their afterlife until the whole egypt fad fades off... at least according to Kelly Link http://subterraneanpress.com/magazine/summer_2011/valley_of_the_girls_by_kelly_link [subterraneanpress.com]

          • I believe that while security concerns are valid, but it ignores the advance we get from the technology.

            Privacy isn't a technological problem to solve by rejecting what's new just because. It's a social one and if we are comfortable with having no privacy, don't blame google or Honda or whoever, let's fix the problem and don't blame the companies involved and not be so complacent.

            • by lakeland (218447)

              I don't quite get what you mean.

              "... it ignores the advances we get from the technology..."

              So when assessing the benefit of something (in this case networked cars) we should weigh privacy fairly against the benefit (safety)

              "if we are comfortable with having no privacy, don't blame ..."

              This is where I was a bit lost. The point was having your location history accessible to the police is a loss of privacy. That loss came as a side-effect of some new technology which makes the world a safer place. I don't s

      • Yes, everyone could theoretically be followed and logged today. Currently, that is far too time consuming.

        Oh really? [ted.com]

      • Re:Not worried. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Tom (822) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @02:50AM (#41232041) Homepage Journal

        has the potential to store everyones movements, forever.

        *sigh* People who know nothing about privacy worrying about privacy...

        No, it does not store anyones' movements. It stores an ID chips movements. Ten years ago there was a panel discussion about the coupon cards (or whatever you call them in your part of the world) that were just emerging. You know, these PayBack and whatever "customer cards" that give you a few % off if you put them down when shopping? And which, of course, log your shopping habbits and send them back to some big database to be datamined? I'm fairly confident (and said so) that the company doesn't give a flying fuck about you, they are looking for large patterns - e.g. x% of people who buy A are also buying B so maybe we should move the locations of A and B in the shop around.

        However, there was a simple solution to the privacy problem that I suggested and that was immediately executed by a few people in the audience: Stand up and exchange your card with someone else. Repeat every now and then.

        So you are worried that someone is tracking your car? Talk to your neighbour. Drive his car for a week while he drives yours. Borrow a car from a friend for your trip down to the local strip club. Switch cars with your wife more often. Of stop owning a car and rent one every now and then.

        Sure, it isn't as simple as exchanging a card, but do you really care about privacy or are you just whining?

        • You've already given up and rolled over. Why should i have to choose between reasonable convenience and reasonable privacy? In the case of your supermarket savings card scenario, why should i have to choose between privacy and saving a couple of bucks? Collecting the marketing data should pay for the savings, the opportunity to investigate my non-anonymized shopping habits is the problem.
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:25PM (#41230585)

    And the outcome doesn't look positive. Police/Feds/DHS/TSA are all salivating over this - they're thinking exactly how to collect, store and use this information.

  • by ThorGod (456163) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:26PM (#41230591) Journal

    I know our entire world is built against it, at the moment. But I hope that, sometime in my life, robotic systems replace humans in the driver's seat. Driving is one task we humans seem inept at safely executing. It makes sense, most of the time in a car is uneventful. It's the 5% of the time where something really bizarre happens that we have to be prepared for the rest of the time. But human attention span doesn't work that way and so people get lazy, start slurping sodas (or worse), and people wind up dead. So, I hope to see the human driver become a thing of the past in my lifetime. It may not happen, but it is worthy of working toward.

  • by Archfeld (6757) * <treboreel@live.com> on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:33PM (#41230631) Journal

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methuselah's_Children [wikipedia.org]

    He even has a part where someone modifies the chip in the car to hide their ID as they slip off a monitored road onto an illegal side road...

    • I love Heinlein. I mean really the man was a visionary in ways that are not appreciated even today.
  • If the car was fully automated (self-driving), why would it need to store information on where the owner (or occupant) is? It's basically just personalized mass transit at that point - buses and subways don't report the names of their passengers so why should an automated car?
    • by epyT-R (613989)

      it doesn't 'have' to, but you can be the government (and marketers) will want it to..and they'll want remote control as well.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      If the car was fully automated (self-driving), why would it need to store information on where the owner (or occupant) is? It's basically just personalized mass transit at that point - buses and subways don't report the names of their passengers so why should an automated car?

      IANAL, but I believe "personalized" would be the trigger word here. Legally it is likely a matter of ownership, which may be all a lawyer needs to hold anything and everything against YOU, because of the simple fact that it is YOUR car. The burden is now likely upon YOU to prove that it wasn't you driving. Open your checkbook and have fun with that.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @11:18PM (#41230935)

      FTFA:

      Because the cars in the Ann Arbor test only need to know the location of other vehicles within 300 meters, there’s no need to connect to the Internet or record your car’s location, says van der Jagt. And since the system doesn’t collect any data from the car’s registration or VIN, there’s no way for Ford or anyone else to know who you are and where you’re going, he adds.

      You're right, and came to the same conclusion the car makers did. The article writer is assuming that they'll start recording and sharing this data, and explains why it would be bad if that happens. (Kinda tautological.) It's similar to arguing that we should have never invented tabulating machines (and later computers) because they could be used by someone like the Nazis. That's a very regressive argument, but the author expands it. His point is that the privacy invading features could later be added, not that they exist now. (So we shouldn't develop anything at all, because everything is a prerequisite technology for something evil.)

    • They may not need to, but they already do store a lot of that data. Do you really think that as they start to collect more data about where you are and where you go they are not going to store that data as well?
  • by insnprsn (1202137) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:44PM (#41230709)
    Paranoid people start wondering about what if and maybes, quick derail the project before all of civilization falls.
    While there are instances where privacy concerns are legitimate, in cases like this it is my opinion (yes I'm entitled to it, no you dont have to like it or agree with it, and so what if you dont) that the only people concerned with the what if's and maybe's are those who do not abide the law.
    • by ThorGod (456163)

      the only people concerned with the what if's and maybe's are those who do not abide the law

      Yes! Exactly! A thousand times yes! ;)

      • Right, and of course the laws are always just, the people enforcing them are good people, and those people from the government are really here to help you.
    • by epyT-R (613989)

      This is why we can't seem to maintain free societies. Insecure people start demanding that safety take precedence over freedom over what if's and maybes, quick derail other's abilities to have a say in their fates before all of civilization falls. While there are instances where safety concerns are legitimate, in cases like this, the only people concerned with the what ifs and maybes are those who are control freaks or have some other agenda driven by unbelievable personal insecurity.

    • by PSVMOrnot (885854) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @11:18PM (#41230937)

      While there are instances where privacy concerns are legitimate, in cases like this it is my opinion (yes I'm entitled to it, no you dont have to like it or agree with it, and so what if you dont) that the only people concerned with the what if's and maybe's are those who do not abide the law.

      Privacy isn't always about hiding wrong-doing; it's about hiding things that some people are too narrow minded or ignorant to understand and accept.

      So I believe it would be more accurate would be to say that those who are concerned with the what if's and the maybe's are those who understand that not everyone does - or even should - conform to societies idea of normal. These are the sort of people who understand that in any system there are edge cases, things which are not quite as they seem on the surface and actively try to design around such flaws. These are the programmers, the designers, the engineers of our society.

      These are the people who try to make sure that you can pick up your drunken college buddy from a gay bar at 0-dark-30, and not have it bite you in the ass should you later try to run for public office. These are the people who try to prevent you from being labelled a terrorist simply because your club happens to share a community building with an unpopular religion. These are the people who try to to prevent pediatricians from being lynched because some idiots can't tell the difference between a Doctor specializing in children and a pedophile.

      So, in future when you are about to call someone paranoid over issues such as this, please consider: it may be that they have realized that what may seem to be a simple system, when applied on a national or international scale, becomes a system in which even relatively small errors can destroy lives.

      • by Cyberax (705495) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @12:27AM (#41231319)

        Privacy isn't always about hiding wrong-doing; it's about hiding things that some people are too narrow minded or ignorant to understand and accept.

        And thus perpetrating the system where ignorant bigots have power.

        Think about it, would have it been better if gay activists in 60-s used privacy protection to shield their private lives instead of openly admitting their sexual orientation and fighting for their rights?

  • Instead of trying to hold onto our vanishing privacy, which is already a losing battle, we need to shift focus onto shining the light on corporate and government officials' activities. Honestly, they mostly don't care what we're up to, most people lead boring lives, but we all know that they mega-rich don't want us knowing what they are doing behind closed doors to the rest of us.
  • I work on in-vehicle systems and the servers that talk to them. There are plenty of existing, deployed services that combine external information with the location of your vehicle (e.g. concierge, route planning with points of interest, vehicle locator, charge station finder for EVs, geo-fencing, insurance scoring, and many more). For all of these, your location data must be sent to a server. And any in-vehicle system that provides at least some services that need vehicle location, will make a habit of send

  • by bhlowe (1803290)
    I just got Waze on my Pioneer AppRadio.. Looks pretty cool... I can see and report accidents, police, and more.. This is the flipping future. And I care that the Feds know I'm driving to down Main Street because???? Unless someone uses the info to rob my house when I'm not there, I don't see the harm. I can always turn it off.
  • The insurance companies.

    Do you drive 5 pmh over the limit all the time? You're more of a risk and your premiums go up.

    Did you slow down and then just blow off a stop sign at 3AM? You're more of a risk and your premiums go up.

    You might not have a DUI, but if your car always goes to the parkling lot of ChiChi's Boom Boom Room? You're more of a risk and your premiums go up.

    etc.

    That's who really wants this data. They want to strangle every last dime out of the consumer before automated cars take over

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      And by more of a risk obviously that means you are likely to cost the insurance company more so yes your premiums necessarily should go up.

      Ohh, but you're the exception to the risk. I get it. Then shop around and get insurance from a company that will accept your promise that your risky behavior is not a risk to them.

  • Every car will have data in it like aircraft do. It will know what your actions were, were you were and what you were doing. It's comforting to know my ex wife, the insurance company, the police and the rest of government won't get access to that data. Uh huh. Sure.

    • by T-Bucket (823202)

      Er... This already happens. Most (new) cars have this installed. Fortunately mine doesn't, but you can bet your ass the first one I buy that DOES will have it immediately removed/deactivated/destroyed.

  • Just make it so you can edit the car's trip memory. I think every user would want a "Remember this Destination" button and an editable destination list. But remember, the first company past the post looks like it's going to be Google and they never delete a byte. Everything goes in your permanent profile.
  • Remember... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @12:44AM (#41231413)

    Remember when they told us that traffic light cameras wouldn't be used for anything but managing traffic jams at that intersection?

  • by StripedCow (776465) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:13AM (#41232669)

    Meet the new Facebook car! Get in, it's free!

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