Latest Reader Question (January 23, 2018)

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Here’s the latest reader question, long with my reply:

MS asks: What happens if you buy the same chatty-Cathy car as a used vehicle from your neighbor down the block? Is permission to spy on you transferred along with ownership of the vehicle? Does the state intervene on behalf of the automaker to transfer that intent automagically or does the auto-maker merely presume that you as the new owner are okay with it? Personally, I am not okay with 24×7 surveillance – that’s why I disabled (cut power to) the On-Star device in my 12 year old clunker when I first purchased it. I worked as a computer crimes investigator for 15 years. The automakers have no vested interest in keeping the onboard computers secure against malware, etc. – that would cost them money and yield no tangible benefit – so they will do as little as possible. The dealer shows me a list of infotainment features and I see a list of attack vectors that can be used to invade my privacy and possibly compromise my safety on the road. Thank you for your reviews and your efforts to educate your readers as to the pros and cons of our technology.

My reply: If the new owner signs up for the telematics service contract (e.g., OnStar) then I would expect everything to work – if that’s the right word – as it did for the prior owner. Also, in the new/newer cars, there is “connected” functionality that continues to operate even if the owner has discontinued or not renewed the service contract for telematics/concierge systems such as OnStar.

I suspect the only way to be truly free of this stuff is to buy a car that never had the capability to begin with. In general, this means cars built before the early-mid 2000s; in some case (GM) cars made before the early -mid 1990s.

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Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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