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Federal regulator questions car makers about unwanted tracking through their apps

Federal regulator questions car makers about unwanted tracking through their apps

Many modern cars are connected to the Internet and have apps that allow the owner to see the car's location, start it remotely, honk its horn, and even adjust the temperature. These apps for car control and tracking are designed for convenience, but a New York Times report last month detailed how they have been weaponized in abusive relationships, allowing unwanted stalking and harassment. Is.

Domestic violence survivors and experts said car companies did not respond when asked to block abusers' digital access to their cars. Customer service agents of car companies were unable to help when the abuser was the owner or co-owner of the vehicle, even when the victim had a restraining order or legal judgment for sole use of the car during divorce proceedings.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission sent letters to the nine largest automakers, including General Motors, Toyota, Ford and Tesla, asking for more information about their connected car apps and asking whether the companies had procedures in place to assist abuse victims.

“No survivor of domestic violence and abuse should have to choose between leaving their car behind and allowing themselves to be followed and harmed by those who want to access its data and connectivity,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. Can reach.” “We must do everything we can to help survivors stay safe. We need to work with auto and wireless industry leaders to find solutions.

Chairman Rosenworcel wrote in the letters that the FCC was tasked with enforcing the Secure Connections Act, a relatively new law that requires phone companies to disconnect a victim's phone from the family plan shared with the abuser. it occurs. To the extent that cars have become “smartphones on wheels”, automakers “may be 'covered providers' under the Act,” he wrote.

The agency has also sent letters to the three largest wireless communications providers — Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile — about their role in providing connectivity to cars and whether they are complying with the law.

Thomas Kadri, a law professor at the University of Georgia who was an advisor to the Safe Connections Act, found it surprising that the law could also apply to car manufacturers. But he said he hoped the letters would prompt automakers to consider how connected car apps could be used for stalking and harassment.

“At the scale they are operating at, this is not a unique or rare issue,” he said.

The FCC asked for responses to the letters by the end of the month.



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