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Empowering Your Story, Protecting Your Future

In the Digital Age, Your Car Could Squeal on You


A few weeks back, we observed how the move into the "smart" world presents some risks to our personal privacy. The story shared was about how police in a neighbor state of Tennessee are working to mine data from one of the growing number of computerized devices that make up the so-called internet of things as part of efforts to build a case against a murder suspect.

Most readers likely know that an individual arrested and charged with a crime has the right to remain silent. Anything you say could be used against you in court, so it's considered wise to exercise your right. Speak with an experienced attorney first. If you keep quiet, it would be good if your interconnected computerized devices did too, but police will try to get them to talk, and whether they should be able to remain something of a legal minefield.

Here's one more device that some experts say deserves to be included in the IoT grab bag: your vehicle.

Depending on its age, your car or truck is probably equipped with computers on board. Experts say cars have been capturing some level of data since around 1980. Just as the computer age has exploded in the decades since so has the data collection capacity of vehicles.

The earliest chips might have tracked emissions. Today, sensors gauge brake usage, tire wear and more. Navigation systems track the movements. Some have cameras and radar. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration revealed in 2015 that it has plans to make it possible for car buyers to eventually have alcohol sensing interlock devices in cars as optional equipment.

All of these doorways into the private doings of individuals leave many experts concerned. They are not only worried that users may not know the scope of information being collected about them but also about how the information could be used.

Anyone who has sold an old phone or computer knows that erasing the memory is essential before it is handed on. Unfortunately, privacy advocates say there is no process right now for thoroughly erasing data from vehicle computer systems.

What police could learn from that data is something that someone facing charges might want to worry about.