Net effect of connection will drive auto phobia

WHILE Tony Abbott, George Brandis and Malcolm Turnbull dig themselves into an ever-deepening hole attempting to explain their internet privacy policy and allay public fears that it is, in reality, a total invasion of privacy policy, the automotive industry watches with interest.

WHILE Tony Abbott, George Brandis and Malcolm Turnbull dig themselves into an ever-deepening hole attempting to explain their internet privacy policy and allay public fears that it is, in reality, a total invasion of privacy policy, the automotive industry watches with interest.

At present, most in-car internet access systems simply stream your mobile phone, but within a few years your new car will have a dedicated SIM card — compulsory in new cars in the EU from next year.

It opens up the possibility — some would suggest the certainty — that when you’re driving your connected car, you will be under the same level of surveillance, for good or ill, as when you’re sitting in front of your computer.

This won’t extend merely to the capture of metadata from websites but also to vehicle operating and tracking data automatically collected from your car’s computerised control units and potentially transmitted to all sorts of businesses and government agencies.

An Australian company, Connexion Media, is developing a range of in-car SIM-based internet connectivity products. Chief executive George Parthimos claims such technology can capture “up to 80 streams of data” from the vehicle, which, he told industry newsletter GoAuto, “we can package up and on-sell to third parties who are interested in buying real time data”.

Real-time tracking and data collection will render speed cameras, highway patrols and all other current methods of speed enforcement obsolete, because the moment you exceed the limit your location and speed will be transmitted to a business, probably subcontracted by the relevant state government, which will then generate a penalty notice and email it to you. Just think how much revenue state governments miss out on now because they don’t have the resources to ping every miscreant motorist who breaks the speed limit by a kilometre per hour or two? It must be billions of dollars. Will they be keen to access your in car data? Will they what.

So will insurance companies, because they too will be able to monitor exactly how, where and when you drive your car. This will allow them to turbocharge profitability by precisely tailoring premiums to suit each individual driver, to a far greater extent than they can now. If you never make a claim and drive infrequently, you’ll probably pay less. If you do a lot of driving and cop a few of those pesky speeding infringement emails, you’ll pay more. A lot more.

Then there are the car importers and dealers, your guaranteed new besties in the wired-up automotive universe. You’re driving your Mercedes C Class home from work and it’s about to clock up 50,000km. That’ll be an email from your dealer. Bring it in now and let’s talk trading up to the new model, Frank. (They’ll know your name, of course, and much, much more.)

Legislation specifying what data can be collected from your car, who gets access to it and whether or not you have any say in the matter will be the federal government’s responsibility, under the Telecommunications Act. Can you clarify these issues for us, George? Malcolm?

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