Connected Cars: Conduit vs. Content

By October 18, 2013 March 6th, 2018 Automotive, Internet of Things, Telematics

In the Oct.-Nov. issue of Connected World Magazine, Dorothy Glancy of Santa Clara Law offers a point of view regarding potential privacy concerns related to connected cars.

With the hype and the hope surrounding connected cars technologies and the autonomous driving, the author is correct in identifying potential privacy and data usage issues concerning vehicle operational data and vehicle location information, other observations are hardly clear-cut and are lost in technical particulars, not all of them accurate.

In order to understand potential data privacy risks and devise appropriate remedies, we need to differentiate between data acquisition (sensors), data storage (EDR), data transmission (vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication and some telematics) and services (more telematics and location-based services). The potential for exposing private information increases as we progress in this process.

Furthermore, we need to recognize that most of the large amount of data generated during the operation of a vehicle and during V2V communication is transient and the value (and hence the risk of privacy breach) is very short lived.

Therefore, the issue is not what type of sensor technology is used, the proposed spectrum for V2V, or the type of control software is used, as the author seems to argue. Rather, the questions regarding privacy concerns should focus on the types of collected data, what context it is presented in, and how long this data persists.

The same questions should be asked (and answered) about the information broadcasted by a cell phone in a moving car that can be used to identify the location and speed of the car, pictures snapped and shares in a near real-time on Instagram, and so forth.

In fact, as everything and everyone is becoming a roaming IP node, producing and consuming information, the questions concerning privacy and data usage rights are more pervasive and far-reaching than the specific connected car technology, which, after all, is merely the conduit through which the information is transmitted. We need to focus on managing and protecting the information content.