Thursday, July 21, 2005

Welcome To Jail, This Is OnStar.

You hear the commercials... baby locked in car or adult locked out of car. OnStar is a great way to connect to an operator that can access the functions of your car at anytime. It commonly being used for getting directions to specific locations and recovery of a car if it is stolen. But, what a lot of people may not know is that this perceived public service is actually a privacy issue.

Former Clark County Commissioner Lance Malone and another influential local politician were being followed awhile back in an FBI investigation. The two sat for awhile in Malone's Hummer discussing 'business.' And with just a call to OnStar, a few features were disabled at an office allowing the agents to listen and record the entire conversation. The information gathered at the time would later be used to convict Malone and strip club owner Michael Galardi in a California court. (A second trial is being readied in Nevada.)

This wasn't been the first use of this item for information gathering. In November 2003, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco decided that the government may be able to convert some of the systems into roaming in-car wiretaps.

Having the OnStar system technology in your car has become a bigger liability than originally thought. Sure, we like to think that our car is the safest place you can be other than home. Heck, Gary Numan felt the same when writing his hit "Cars": "Here in my car, I feel safest of all. I can lock all my doors. It's the only way to live, in cars." Possibly worse than privacy is if you depend on the system for roadside assistance and information as those are the two functions that are disabled to make your conversations public. I wonder what happens when the emergency service button doesn't work during an accident when you need it the most. Would a death change a viewpoint or grant a new appeal? Are people paying for this service warned about any of these things? Why do I feel like cameras going into public bathrooms are coming next?


Jenn Doll said...

That's really freakin' scary. My friend has OnStar, I'm SO making her read this.

Oh gosh, I never use the restroom in a public restroom or someone's house without feeling like I'm being "watched." It sucks!

RT said...

Oh. Quit being so paranoid, Martin.

Or at least, that's what people keep telling me...

Fred said...

Thank you Patriot Act.

Anonymous said...

If they can tap your home phone and monitor your emails, it makes sense they could use the OnStar service. It's all electronic communication.

But if you're not doin anything illegal, you're just a mother and homemaker, then you have nothin to worry about. If you're doin somethin illegal and you get caught because of one of these services, ummm, you deserved

The Mad Hoosier said...

I thought this from the first time I saw those warm and fuzzy OnStar commercials. They already use cameras to dole out speeding tickets...cameras that can and do peer inside the privacy of your car. OnStar just takes it one step further.

Right now, it is just FBI and police officers that can use OnStar to insert themselves right into your car without you knowing it. My worry is that some regular joe blow stalker figures out how to hack into the system.

I definitely see living in a world like Minority Report soon where cameras monitor everything we do. That is unless we stand up to stop it from happening.

RT said...

Ummm... Not to freak you out or anything, but the regular joe blow stalkers figures already have found a way to hack the system.

Op! No! Stop it! Must-Not-Bend-To-The-Paranoid-Thoughts.