Advantages of car tracking technology
It sounds like something from a dystopian thriller - the idea that no matter where you're going in your own car, somebody can track those movements. But it's already happening to a large extent. It's actually commonplace.
Here are some ways you're being tracked now
For most people reading this, there's a good chance that one or more of these technologies is already tracking your movements when you go for a drive.
Your new car
Many vehicles made over the past couple of years include technology that actively tracks the movements of the vehicle. You might think it's wrong for them to do that without telling you, but they'd argue they're telling you. It's included in the paperwork pages that you sign on the day you purchase the car, buried in legal, most people don't bother reading.
Right now, 78 million cars are on the road with such tracking technology. And experts expect 98 percent of all new cars sold to include it within a few years.
Your car's entertainment system
If you ever hook your smartphone into your car with Bluetooth or a USB connection, your car's entertainment system can access lots of data saved on your device. According to one investigative report, this includes your phone book, call logs, text messages, pictures, location data - just about everything you can think of.
As of now, there's not much regulation around how companies can use that data. At least one company, Berla, makes the information available to law enforcement agencies in a number of states (though with a proper court order).
Both smartphones from Android and Apple have built-in location tracking. And not only does your smartphone track your movements for most people, but you've probably got a number of apps that do the same. (You'll probably see apps asking if they can always access your location information because the smartphone is already tracking it.)
A number of insurance companies offer usage-based insurance programs where you can install a telematics device in your car that tracks your driving habits, ideally to reward you for driving safely and/or minimally. Companies that have these programs are required to disclose just what data they're looking at, so if you choose to use one, you know what it's tracking.
The good news about telematics devices is that they're generally your choice to use.
Event data recorders are included in almost every new car, sometimes referred to as the "black box" of a car. These recorders collect data about your driving behavior to record important information during an accident, such as the speed of the car and how quickly the airbag was deployed.
The use of EDRs is much more limited than the other technologies on this list. They don't keep a continual record of your driving habits or transmit that information anywhere. EDRs only become available if someone intentionally accesses the information, like after a crash.
For many consumers, the convenience and safety is worth the loss of privacy or there wouldn't be so many popular apps that require this technology. If you find it scarier than helpful though, be thoughtful about privacy issues when buying your next car and as you use your smartphone each day.