Thursday, March 02, 2017 by Jayson Veley
If you stop and think about it, there really aren’t many places we can go today where we can be entirely, one hundred percent free of some level of surveillance. When we walk alongside city streets, our actions are being recorded by surveillance cameras positioned on virtually every block. When we walk outside into our backyards, its entirely possible that a drone may be flying high above our heads. Indeed, just a few weeks ago, the TV manufacturer Vizio came under fire after it was revealed that their televisions were collecting data about viewers’ watching habits.
One doesn’t exactly have to be a conspiracy theorist to acknowledge what is going on in this country. Its hard to deny the fact that Americans are increasingly losing their privacy rights. Now, it appears that we aren’t even safe inside of our cars.
Earlier this year, GM announced the release of a next-generation infotainment software development kit (NGI SDK), which would assist software developers in the creation of apps for GM cars. The technology is capable of checking oil levels, tire pressure, lightbuib life, and even detecting when there are passengers inside of the vehicle.
General Motors also stated “From 2015 to 2016, GM has seen data usage by customers increase nearly 200 percent. Mobile app use for GM vehicles also hit an all-time high in 2016, with more than 225 million interactions.” Given all of this data that GM was able to collect through their vehicles, is it really so much of a stretch to suggest that they may have more detailed personal information?
You’ll recall that in the midst of the NSA spying scandal, we were originally told that the agency only collected data like phone numbers and email addresses, not the actual content of messages. We quickly learned, however, that this actually wasn’t true. If the National Security Agency will lie to us about the information they are collecting, why wouldn’t a huge, multinational corporation like General Motors?
NGI SDK is just one of the many pieces of technology found inside cars that has the potential to abuse privacy rights. Subaru, for example, has announced the addition of eight apps to the STARLINK system inside of the 2017 Impreza. Some of these apps are extremely basic and seemingly harmless, like Yelp and eBird (eBird is an application created for birdwatchers by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology). There is one app, however, that all liberty-loving Americans should be concerned about – RightTrack. Subaru describes RightTrack as an app that “monitors driving habits and provides customers with tips on driving safer to help lower their insurance rates and improve their safe driving skills.”
The sad truth is that the expansion of government and the decay of privacy rights always seems to be justified by saying it’s all “for the people.” Both GM’s software development kit and Subaru’s RightTrack app are prime examples of this – sure it violates your privacy rights, but it’s fun and it will make you safer!
The real question here is where exactly we are going with all of this. Will our society continue going down a path of limitless surveillance even in the most unexpected areas, or will we restore respect for the United States Constitution and put a renewed emphasis on inalienable rights? (RELATED: KFC’s new facial recognition system is like something out of the book 1984). Given the fact that technology is rapidly advancing, coupled with the harsh reality that the government will never willingly surrender authority, things likely won’t change any time soon. That is why it’s so important that we, as Americans, never stop talking and never stop speaking out in the name of liberty.