Thursday, September 15, 2005

Tracking Every Move You Make: Can Car Rental Companies Use Technology to Monitor Our Driving?

Anita Ramasastry's recent columns at FindLaw, Tracking Every Move You Make Can Car Rental Companies Use Technology to Monitor Our Driving? discusses the use of GPS as a monitoring technology, particularly in rental cars. From the article:
GPS-Plus-Wireless Transmitters: Why the Combination May Invade Privacy

It's little wonder that companies want to couple GPS with wireless transmitters. Here are a few examples of why:

A GPS-plus-transmitter system can help a trucking company monitor whether its employees are obeying speed limits and driving-hours limits, and taking their required rest breaks.

Using such a system can also aid insurance and/or rental car companies in giving discounts to those who do not speed; possibly adding (small, reasonable) penalties to the bills of those who do; and finding stolen cars. (Companies should be careful not to assume, however, that an occasional speeder is a scofflaw: Many drivers are forced to speed simply to keep pace with other cars in traffic.)

GPS could be useful in terms of curbing truly reckless driving such as speed racing. Rental car companies might be able to prohibit certain drivers from car rentals if they are repeatedly driving in excess of the speed limit.

But what about the cost, when it comes to privacy? Even when tracking is done openly and consensually - as I have suggested ought to be legally required - the transmission of location data in real time may reveal more than the consumer has bargained for.

A consumer might assume that GPS is only being installed to recover his car if stolen, but in fact, it could be used for marketing and pricing purposes - to figure out how far a given driver typically drives, how often she uses her car, and how fast she travels.

Her analysis supports my own research on how DSRC-enabled vehicle safety communication technologies (which also utilize GPS technology) threaten the contextual integrity of the flow of personal information when driving on the public roads.
[via The Canadian Privacy Law Blog]

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