Personal Freedom

Is Your Car Actually Spying On You?

Many of our devices are quickly becoming small computers that store tremendous amounts of information. The modern vehicle is no exception. Last year, the Mozilla Foundation wrote about the ridiculous amount of data that newer cars collect about us, especially the world around our cars. Now one might say, but that data is private to the individual car owner, right? Right?!

As the New York Times reported recently, the answer is a resounding no. Investigations have shown that the vast majority of car manufacturers are all too willing to share your data with law enforcement as long as they receive a subpoena. This is a significantly lower standard than the warrant requirement that the Fourth Amendment is supposed to require.

While the most critical information that law enforcement would likely be interested in is your vehicle location data, eventually this could expand to all types of data that your car collects about you. And it’s bound to only getting worse as newer driver safety systems come online.

This is why last year, Libertas Institute advocated for the passage of legislation that protected vehicle location data from warrantless searches. This legislation passed unanimously and is now the law.

But with these latest reports surfacing about the advancements in technology, coupled with the willingness of car manufacturers to fork over private data to the government, it may be time for Utah to strengthen its code to protect all vehicle data, regardless of if it pertains to the vehicle’s location or not.

We need to start thinking of our vehicles as giant smartphones that hold tremendous amounts of data about us. Then we can start to take the necessary legal and common sense precautions to protect our own privacy, as well as the privacy of others in civil society.