But today, of course, there’s almost nothing that your boss (and theoretically at least, the NSA) doesn’t know about what you or your employees are doing and saying inside the car: If you are or have been talking or texting on a smart phone, how many jackrabbit starts and panic stops or broken speed limits there have been in the last minute, day or forever for that vehicle and its driver. Or, maybe worse, for the indolent employee, loafing on the job by a stop at a favorite watering hole.
Even before GPS, automakers collected a lot of information about the operation of a car. These data were used for vehicle control, as well as protection from liability, and presumably shared with insurers. Onboard “flight recorders” often proved helpful to automakers in court proceedings. A number of states have regulations covering such data.
Nevertheless, there has been little law and regulation in this area, but now that the car has become a rolling desktop — or entertainment center, or water cooler, call it what you will — the issue is heating up.
Most assuredly, Congress has not gotten over it. A Driver Privacy Act is making its way through the legislative body. President Obama initiated a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights in 2012, but it has not made any headway in Congress.
Maybe, as Scott McNealy, opined so long ago, consumers have gotten over it. Ford recently was awarded a patent for in-car advertising, and other automakers are also said to be looking at the possibility. Setting aside the obvious prior-art issue, Thilo Koslowski, a top Gartner auto-industry analyst, wryly commented in The Detroit News, “If the marketing angle was that interesting, Google would have done it ten years ago.”
Mike Sheldrick, Senior Editor, Fleet Management Weekly