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DroneMobile Blog

Is My Car Being Tracked?

Oct 07, 2020
Is My Car Being Tracked?

Vehicle technology is more connected than ever and we all benefit from smarter, higher-quality vehicles. Many advancements are the product of manufacturers, government agencies, and technology companies tracking and gathering more data about driving habits. As with anything that gathers user data, numerous privacy concerns have come up in the vehicle technology industry. Before you use any type of vehicle technology, it is important for you to understand what information is collected and how it is used. 

What Inside My Car is Tracked? 

Aftermarket GPS navigation system mounted on vehicle dashboard.

If you are curious about what types of cars and systems are tracked, the short answer is most of them. The first vehicle GPS tracking system was introduced in North America in 1995, and the industry has only advanced from there. Manufacturers use systems like these to gather data to improve future iterations of their vehicles and systems. 

Here are a few things being tracked: 

1. All New (and Many Old) Vehicles

It is estimated that close to 98% of vehicles now include technology that actively tracks the vehicle's movements. In the coming years, this number will only increase. We will go into more detail in a moment about WHAT they are tracking, but it is important to understand that this data is not just sitting on someone’s computer; it is being used. 

For better or worse, your vehicle data is being used by advertisers, retailers, developers, and more to improve their products/services. Law enforcement and other federal agencies also access this data for their own purposes (more on that later).

2. On-Board Computers and Infotainment Systems

Navigation, diagnostic, and entertainment systems now gather fairly advanced data about your vehicle’s movements and your activity within the car. Depending on what you drive, your car could very well be tracking your eye movements, how much you weigh, and where you place your hands on the steering wheel. 

Your vehicle’s movements are mostly tracked through your navigation system. Whether you use a factory system, an aftermarket system, or an app, your location and driving behavior is being collected. If you have your phone connected to your vehicle, more personal info, such as whether you text and drive, and sometimes the contents of your phone are collected as well. 

3. Automatic License Plate Readers

Three license plate scanner devices mounted to pole.

 

This technology has been creeping its way into the infrastructure of American roadways for the last several years. These gadgets are installed on pretty much anything: police vehicles, road signs, light poles, bridges, etc. and are tracking and gathering information about every vehicle on the road. 

According to a study done by the ACLU

“The information captured by the readers – including the license plate number, and the date, time, and location of every scan – is being collected and sometimes pooled into regional sharing systems.”

These systems can be accessed by government agencies (like the police), businesses, and even private citizens. 

4. The “Black Box” In Your Car

This little device, known as an event data recorder (EDR), gathers certain data points. Law enforcement and other government agencies can access this info in the event of an accident. The vehicle's manufacturer also uses this data to improve vehicle safety mechanisms. These devices have been included in vehicles since 1994 and were first invented to give manufacturers insight into how their vehicles performed in accidents. 

These days, the main data sets of EDR's record are the speed of the vehicle at the time of a crash, when the airbags deployed, whether the brakes were used, steering angles, whether or not seat belts were worn, and more. These devices, by law, are not allowed to record video, audio, or GPS locations and can only store info for a 20 second window around the crash. 

Who Has Access to My Vehicle Data?

Most (if not all) of the data your vehicle collects is available to the vehicle’s manufacturer. But, depending on the manufacturer’s policies and the agreements they have you sign, your data does not always stop there. 

Unfortunately, there is no complete list of people who have access to your driving data. Some of this data collection is at your discretion and can be to your direct benefit. Do you use any apps that track your location or other driving data? Are you comfortable with those companies collecting anonymous data to use to improve their services? Be sure to read privacy policies and any paperwork provided by your vehicle’s manufacturer thoroughly so you know where your data goes. 

Government agencies, on the other hand, are typically limited by the data available to them through the EDR and license plate readers. In certain circumstances, however, they can ask private companies for access to additional data, such as your GPS location. Unless the company has other policies in place, this will typically require a subpoena.

Control Your Own Data with DroneMobile

Woman sitting out couch holding smartphone with DroneMobile GPS tracking page.

You control what features are enabled and monitored (location, speed, ignition, etc).

Many vehicle telematics and GPS Tracking companies continue to track your vehicle’s location and other metrics even when you have those features turned off. That’s another great thing about DroneMobile. If you turn off a feature, whether it’s GPS tracking, alarm alerts, or a POI, it really is turned off and we no longer collect data to give to you about those events. 

You control who has visibility into your account via Family Sharing.

Along with being the only person to have the ability to turn off/on certain features. You are also the only person with the ability to share your vehicle info with others. You determine who is added to your account, and you can remove their access immediately at any time. 

Your data is yours and yours alone.

We at Firstech do NOT share or access your location data for any purpose other than to assist you with your questions/concerns. Firstech’s commitment to data privacy means you never have to worry about your data being stored and sold to a third party for any purpose. You have complete control over your driving data. You can even export your activity log at any time at accounts.dronemobile.com

The world is still catching up with recent advances made in automotive technology. All the devices mentioned today can and have had a positive impact on our roads and the safety of our vehicles. However, staying vigilant when it comes to your personal driving data remains important. When it comes to your dollar, go with companies you trust that have robust privacy policies in place to ensure your data safety. 

Interested in DroneMobile for your business fleet or personal vehicles? Learn more about how to buy DroneMobile through our website today!

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