Ford, GM, Honda and Toyota Spy on Motorists
Newsmax | December 29, 2004
George Orwell's novel "1984" foretold of a society where government tracks every person. But even he might never have imagined that cars could be used to spy on individuals.
Most people don't realize that day has arrived.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, 30 million vehicles manufactured by Ford, GM, Honda and Toyota include a "black box" that records a plethora of information.
The "Event Data Recorder," or EDR, at one time recorded only basic information such as whether an airbag deployed during an accident and whether drivers wore seat belts.
But, says the paper, now many of the devices are recording the last several seconds of data before an accident. That includes how fast the vehicle was traveling, whether or not the driver applied the brakes, and engine speed.
Some of this data has already been used to convict drivers of criminal acts such as murder and manslaughter.
"The main purpose of the EDR is to get data after a crash to help us understand how the airbags worked," said Alan Adler, manager of product-safety communications at General Motors in Warren, Mich.
Though he says GM customers' privacy is "very important to us," he goes on to rationalize that the device "doesn't record anything that isn't true."
That's not the point, critics say.
"This is another example of where technology has outstripped the law and certain assumptions of how the world works," Jay Stanley of American Civil Liberties Union told the Monitor.
There is no regulation regarding the amount of data that can be tracked, stored and turned over to authorities, he said.
"If GM decided tomorrow to track three months of data instead of five seconds, there's nothing that would make them have to tell anybody," Stanley said.
Now even insurance companies are getting into the mix.
The left-wing company Progressive Insurance, a heavy donor to Democrats, is managing "TripSense," a pilot program using 5,000 drivers in Minnesota to market a device that records up to six months of driving habits.
Progressive says drivers can decide whether or not they want to hand over that data to insurance companies.
Other companies are marketing similar devices they say are designed to allow parents to monitor a teen-ager's driving habits.
In the end, however, the concern is that information will be eventually used — whether by insurance companies, police or some government agency — to further control citizens.