Tracking Technology: Your Car is Following You!

Sep 5, 2022 | Technology

Tracking Technology: Your Car is Following You!

It sounds like something out of a Horror movie – no matter where you go in your own car, someone is tracking you and knows where you are. But to a large degree, it’s already happening. In fact, it’s quite common.

Ways You’re (Already) Being Tracked

  • That New Car You Just Got

Vehicles made within the past years include technology that tracks your movements. You may think it’s wrong that they do it without telling you, but they do tell you. The only problem is It’s hidden somewhere in the paperwork you sign when buying the car.

Currently, there are 78 million cars on the road with this kind of tracking technology. And experts expect that within a few years 98% of all new cars sold will include it.

  • Your Car’s Amazing Entertainment System

Whenever you hook your smartphone into your car with Bluetooth or a USB connection, you’re giving your entertainment system permission to access lots of data saved on your device. This may include your phone book, call logs, text messages, pictures, location data – just about everything on your phone. The scary part is there’s not much regulation around how companies can use that data. 

  • Useful Smartphone Apps

For most people, not only does your smartphone track your movements, but probably several apps do that as well, and that goes for both Android and Apple devices.

  • Money-saving Telematics Devices

Companies that offer usage-based insurance programs and collect data using Telematics, ideally to reward you for driving safely and/or minimally, are actually required to disclose just what data they’re looking at, so if you choose to use one, you know what it’s tracking. The good news is Telematics is generally your choice to use.

  • EDR – Your Car’s “Black Box”

Event data recorders are included in almost every new car. They collect data on the car’s driving behavior to record information during an accident, although the use of EDRs is much more limited than the other technologies in this article. They don’t keep a continual record or transmit that information anywhere. EDRs are only used if someone accesses the information, like after a crash.

What Are the Privacy Risks of Being Tracked?

  • First, Law enforcement agencies can use information against you. This is the leading fear among drivers today, especially watching law enforcement using their power for not-good on TV. 
  • Private companies could use it to cost you money. While telematics programs claim to be about saving money, some have started to charge drivers for unsafe driving. When usage-based insurance programs cease to be optional, your driving choices could end up costing you more whether you agree to be tracked or not.
  • If a hacker or other malicious person can access systems that track your movements, your privacy and safety are obviously at serious risk.

How do you opt out?

Unfortunately, you cannot opt-out completely, but you do have some options to reduce how much is actually being tracked.

To start, you can turn off the tracking on your smartphone.

  • For an iPhone, look for the Privacy section under settings. Location services are right at the top and you can either turn it off across the board or review all the apps using it and selectively choose which to remove permissions from.
  • For Android, you can turn off location tracking by choosing Settings while in Google Maps. From there, choose Google Location settings, then Google Location Reporting, and select off.

For cars, the best you can do is read the information provided before you buy. Most new cars will have some type of location tracking technology included, but you will just have to actually read that stack of paperwork they give you to learn the details.

So… What Are the Benefits of Location, Anyway?

Here’s the deal though, If you won’t opt out of these features, you’ll earn a certain amount of convenience and safety:

  • Right now, 911 isn’t good at tracking people in need, but you can use an app to alert emergency services to your location, based on your phone’s GPS.
  • The data from your car and your apps can help to better understand trends in how people drive and why accidents happen. That can help design safer cars, and safer cities, and figure out ways to reduce traffic.
  • If you want to use Uber and Lyft, you have to leave location tracking on. If you want to see the closest coffee shop or find cheap gas nearby, the same thing. 
  • you can use the insights derived from your driving behavior data to make smarter and safer decisions about how, when, and where you drive, which not only could save you money – it could help you prevent accidents, vehicle theft, or other dangerous situations.

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