Is Your Car a Snitch? What Your Vehicle Knows Could Get You BustedYou may have seen a true crime TV show such as Dateline or 20/20 when the authorities are able to figure out the perpetrators route of travel by pinging and triangulating the data from the cell phone towers that the person passed as they carried out their misdeeds. Sometimes this data is precise, and other times it can place a person (their cell phone) in a general area at a specific time. If they want precise information about your whereabouts, your car’s black box can speak volumes with accuracy. If you are a suspect in a crime, and then you are arrested and charged, the law affords you the right to remain silent, and the right against incriminating yourself. Smart people exercise those rights, but what about your vehicle?

Your car knows where you go, how long you have been there, at what you speed you traveled, if you stopped to get gas or made any other stops along the way. Depending on the year model and make of your vehicle, it gathers different data points, but cars have had some form of “black box” since the 1980s. The black box can record that data, which can be used in a court of law.

So to answer the question, yes – your car can tell on you.

Vehicles are getting increasingly smarter. As they move closer to being able to drive without the assistance of a human, vehicles have radar, cameras, sensors, navigation systems and vehicle to vehicle communication capabilities. With all of this data being collected by your car, is there anything you can do to keep it from falling into the hands of those who are trying to convict you of a crime?

Collecting data: the Internet of Things

Briefly, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines the Internet of Things as the ability of everyday objects to connect to the Internet to send and receive data. From your fitness watch that tracks your steps and publishes your workouts on Facebook, to your new refrigerator, which can tell you when you’re out of milk, to the washer and dryer that can remind you to buy laundry soap and fabric softener. By the year 2020, the FTC estimated that there will be more than 50 billion connected devices.

When two data security experts were able to hack into a moving Jeep and take control of the vehicle, it exposed vulnerabilities in the software, so in addition to being concerned about your location data falling into the wrong hands, there is the concern that connected vehicles are vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

In response to the rise of big data and of the IoT, Alex “Sandy” Pentland, the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, has proposed a set of principles and practices that define the ownership and flow of data called, the New Deal on Data. It rebalances the ownership of data in favor of the individual whose data is being collected. It would give people the same rights they have now over their physical bodies and their money, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review.

For the moment, data privacy is a huge concern as there is no single way to completely erase all the countless points of data that a vehicle collects, and if authorities try to mine that data to gain information about the vehicle owner’s movements it could infringe on privacy rights.

At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, an aggressive criminal defense attorney will take on the legal battle on your behalf. We protect your rights and make sure that you have the support of an experienced criminal defense attorney. You are welcome to call 615-977-9370 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment with a skilled Franklin criminal defense attorney today. We also serve clients from our offices in Brentwood and Columbia.