Cars Have Been Recording Conversations for 15 Years



For years, it is the same concern that consumer has. How to keep their privacy? But more than just securing your homes, mobile phones, and computers, you might want to consider securing your cars as well.

It has been reported that our cars have been spying on us for almost 20 years now?

Find out more about which manufacturers, and what to expect with our privacy given that the cars have been recording conversations for over 15 years.

Related articles:

Cartapping: How Feds Have Spied On Connected Cars For 15 Years

The Automotive Black Box Data Dilemma

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Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors.


Airing date: 03/01/2017

Cars Have Been Recording Conversations for 15 Years – What Privacy Expectations Do We Have


Craig Peterson: We’re gonna have a little TechSanity check right now about our vehicles. You know, they’ve been spying on us now for almost 20 years, depends on your car. We’re going to talk about their flight data recorders, if you will. How they’re being used in prosecution? What they are collecting on you? And whether or not there’s a decent way to get rid of some of this data that many people say is just plain intrusive and unconstitutional even. We’ll talk about that tech in just a sec. Here we go.




This has been a real big concern for years. Something I’ve been concerned about. You know our cars have these OBD ports built into them and these ports are being used for a couple of different things. First of all, they’re being used to check to see what your cars emissions are and if there’ve been any problems with your vehicle so that they can determine very quickly easily and cheaply if you need, as part of your inspection, if you need any updates, right. The EPA put a bunch of stuff in there to say whether or not your car passes the emission standards etc. etc. So your car is reporting on itself. It’s telling them some basics here about itself and its health. But did you know that there’s more in your car than you might have expected here. The feds have been spying on our connected cars for more than 15 years. And there was a good article that I shared on that came out of Forbes Magazine talking about this. You know, the rapid spread of connected devices now that can listen and locate you has been a real boon for law enforcement. It’s not just that OBD port that is a problem but it it’s also these various hands-free operations, right? If you have a GM car, if you had it for a while, you probably are familiar with the concept of OnStar. Did you know that when OnStar came out the Secret Service required it to be removed from all vehicles and any in all presidential motorcades? Do you know why? Because they were concerned that if the OnStar technology was in these big Chevy Suburbans and other vehicles that were part of the presidential enclave that, in fact, the bad guys could be able to hack into them and tell the location of the vehicles via GPS because that information can be reported and is reported by the cars. Did you realize that there are also other things that are being used for surveillance? Not just the GPS in the car that’s hooked up to these OnStar type systems, but even in your home.


If you have an Amazon Echo, there has already been a case. An Arkansas murder investigation in 2016 where they sent an order off to Amazon to hand over the audio that had been uploaded and recorded from an Amazon Echo. These cars are being used to spy on people. They can, and do, turn on the microphone in your car without your knowledge. The police have been putting GPS trackers on vehicles and have had gotten their wrists slapped a few different times by doing that without a warrant. Well how about just turning on the microphone in the car and the GPS that’s already in the car? Court documents are calling it car tapping where the police have almost real time audio and location data coming from your cars. So when the cops are ordering the vehicle’s tech providers to hand it over, that’s exactly what they’re doing in many cases without a warrant. There’s an example of a 2014 warrant that allowed New York police to trace a vehicle. They demanded that the satellite radio and the GPS information that was being collected by Sirius XM, be handed over to them so they can see where the vehicle was being driven. And now at least this was a warrant here. The warrant was filed about 3 years ago but only recently unsealed and published in full here. But it asks Sirius XM to activate and monitor as a tracking device, the Sirius XM Satellite Radio installed on the target vehicle, for a period of 10 days. We’re talking about a Toyota 4Runner here that was wrapped up in in the alleged illegal gambling enterprise.


So Sirius XM told Forbes magazine that it complied with the order and did so by switching on the stolen vehicle recovery feature of its connected vehicle services technology. Kinda like the OnStar’s talking about a couple minutes ago. It’s only available in some cars that it supplies. Coz the satellite radios alone can’t be tracked. All they’re doing is receiving the satellite information. But you can get this extra feature that oh so good. So basically the police were, well, demanding. Kinda like they would to Apple. Hand over customer’s location by turning on the Find My iPhone feature. Sirius XM said it’s also worked with law enforcement to provide this information noting that all of this is requiring a warrant. Estimating it receives 5 valid court orders a year to activate the stolen vehicle recovery feature. And there are no other comments that they made to Forbes here. But it really is a bit of a problem.


What other providers are being asked to track cars? We know that with GM, with the OnStar. They even go so far as to be able to shut down the vehicle when the police request it. So the police could be following the vehicle on the road. They look up the VIN of the vehicle based on the license plate, right. Then they say that guy’s not pulling over for me. Go ahead and shut down the car. Well, if GM can do it, if the cops can ask for it, who else can do it? Everything. Everything’s been hacked, right? It is absolutely nuts.


December 2009 the police asked GM to cough up the OnStar data from a Chevy Tahoe. Now it had been rented by a guy who was suspected of being a drug dealer here, cocaine, and they had no idea what the car looked like. They had no idea where the car was. But because OnStar had all that information, they followed him. From Houston, Texas to Louisiana. And it turns out that this OnStar tracking data was really accurate, right? They were able to identify the vehicle among all of the others that were on Interstate 20 that evening. They stopped the guy. They found cocaine. They found ecstasy. And they found a gun. But it goes on and on. You know individuals unwittingly had their conversations listening in on by law enforcement. How long will it be before the NSA starts listening to all of our conversations in the car? ATX Technologies which provides the technology here for Mercedes. They’re part of Agarell right now. But they were ordered to provide roving interceptions of an S430. So it complied with the order to spy on the audible communications for 30 days. But when the FBI asked for an extension that company declined saying it was overly burdensome. Burdensome. OnStar, man this and goes on. You gotta read this article over on Forbes. It’s really, really something.


But this is the type of intrusion that’s possible. The Chevy Tahoe’s been the result, or excuse me, has been at the center of a couple different car tracking cases that’s why I’ve never been fond of OnStar. This may be why you want to disconnect OnStar. I’m not fond of having an iPhone either because what are they going to do with that our iPhone? Are they going to be tracking it? And you know I’m not committing crimes. I’m not worried about it. They’re not coming after me right now. But what if a bad guy got access to that? What if we had a government that was a bad government that wanted to the spy on everything? What happens if an artificial intelligence decides to take over, right? How do we know? Who knows what the implications of something like this could be? It’s a real, real problem.


There’s another great article you might want to look at, again at It’s called the Automotive Black Box Data Dilemma. Now this is a few years old. This about 5 years old. But this is from MyEEE. These are the guys and gals that design our electronic systems out there. Very, very bright people. But they’re asking what happens with the event data recorders? I remember reading an article about some police up in Montreal. Somebody was accused of just traveling too fast on St. Catherine Street by someone who called it in to the police. So the police found the car based on the description and they hooked up to the car’s event data recorder. It’s kind of like a black box. And they issued a speeding ticket based on the data that it was in the event data recorder.


We’ve got Supreme Court cases about this. GPS tracking. These black boxes that are being mandated now. Starting with the 2013 model years, event data recorders have to keep a record of 15 discrete variables in the seconds before crash. The car speed. The how far the accelerator was pressed. Engine’s RPMs. Whether the driver hit the brakes. Whether the driver was wearing a seatbelt. And how long it took for the airbags to deploy? It goes on and on, right? So what happens when you have bad data in these things? Boy, we have at least one case where evidence that was found in this EDR was used to up the charges to manslaughter in a hit-and-run case. So, it’s troubling. It’s very concerning. You know we have a right to our privacy. We’ve absolutely do in the Constitution to our papers. So, is this our information? Is it the car manufacturer’s information? We bought the car, right? We own the car. Well less and less we own the things we buy. Now, more and more, the things we buy are only licensed to us. And what’s going to happen with these autonomous cars? Did you see what just came out about our friends over at Tesla? They want to provide you with 100% of everything. They’re going to provide you with the car. You’re paying monthly for it, right? And they’re going to provide you with the insurance and maintenance and repairs including everything, like your tires, for a fixed monthly cost. So who owns what at that point? Because you don’t own the car anymore. You probably don’t own the stereo. You don’t own the OnStar system that GM’s put in there. Or the system that BMW or Mercedes has put into your car. You don’t own any of that. So what right to privacy do you have? Because now it’s the corporation’s information.


So what happens when they are feeding that into marketing advertising or even criminal enterprises? We’re already annoyed when we see ads that come up from Google based on our search history, right? So this goes on and on. There’s a lot I understand here. There’s a lot to know. And we’ve brush the surface but it’s something we need to really think about. This technology gets further into our lives. How much privacy can we really expect?


So there’s a little TechSanity check for today. Tomorrow, we’re going to be talking about the police surveillance cams. How much privacy can we really expect even from the police? And this is going to help. Think Robocop here. Think Robocop. Alright have a great day and we will be back tomorrow. You can check us out online. to subscribe to the Daily podcast. And also you can find them on TuneIn. TuneIn of course available as an app and the website. Take care. Bye bye.


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