EFF: Mystery GPS Tracker On A Supporter’s Car

I thought this was very educational.


Better on the Supporter’s Car than just a Supporter. ;^)

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How long before every new car has a built-in GPS tracker as standard?

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How do we know they don’t already? :grimacing:

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If they are using the 3G network then that problem will be solved soon enough in the US i.e. will stop working / stop tracking. (I would guess that the bandwidth requirements are generally low for this sort of device.)

Otherwise, you don’t.

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Surely they have to disclose that somehow, even if its part of a security package or some such marketing scheme as it was in the article.

Not sure exactly what that is referring to but I’m sure they would find some justification.

For example, we bought a new car in the last few years and it comes with 7 years roadside assistance (don’t know what that might be called in different countries). Clearly, in order to provide that service, it is helpful if they know where you have broken down. So you would be under constant surveillance for the rare if ever situation (in 7 years) that your car breaks down.

Otherwise it could be hidden in 43 pages of turgid legalese, in a section relating to how they they may monitor all aspects of the ‘performance of the car and its systems’ in order to make future engineering improvements, which you can opt out of if you read all the legalese and follow the difficult process.

For clarity, the above are hypothetical examples. Or are they? :wink:

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Sounds like they installed the device “in case” someone decided to subscribe to the anti-theft tracking. But then why would they expend the devices needlessly? :man_shrugging:

“turgid” + “legalese” = my new favorite word combination for describing privacy policies
:clap: :rofl:


I’m just saying (by way of making my point and not to defend the practice) that if asked, albeit probably via a series of the proper questions, they’d tell you it was installed. It should be on the window sticker at the very least (maybe it was at the first dealership, no one knows).

If someone wants their car tracked by the dealership, that’s their prerogative. They should have the option if it’s offered, it’s their car. I certainly don’t agree with it myself. This news article being exactly that, news, means the dealer needs to be much more forthcoming about it, but I am certain that if asked how their security package worked, they’d tell you you were being tracked. You could then, if you so desired, tell them to remove that privacy a destroying BS from your new car or you walk.

They call it that in the US, but its generally a phone number you call and say “I’m on highway X at mile marker Y” without being constantly surveiled.

Again, I say all this not to defend any dealership because any dealership by and large are scum, but I don’t think the whole tracking situation is as bad as it reads.

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A lot of the time you won’t know the mile marker (every 5 km here) unless you know you are going to break down - and even if you did know the mile marker, the GNSS gets you a lot greater precision.

There is no need for constant surveillance though. About the one time this has happened to me in the last decade, I just whipped out the iPhone, and read off the GNSS coords to the person at the other end of the phone.

They do prefer an electronic interface though because a person who is flustered (breakdown, accident) may make an error in reading the coords and there is no redundancy that can directly be used to detect an error.

Like you, not trying to justify it - and certainly wouldn’t want it if I knew it was there.

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Right, I understand the “merits” of precise location, but if you’re not calling 911 (or whatever that number is for you) then you’re not in dire enough straits to require instant help, so saying “I passed exit Z about ten minutes ago and I’m heading east” is good enough, because you’ll be the only car matching your car’s description on the side of the road 7-12 miles east of exit Z.

At any rate, this is turning into rambling. Tracking should be opt-in, not yank out.

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I think the “This side down” sticker pretty much said this wasn’t going to be an espionage story. :wink:

It’s much easier to find the GPS trackers that say, “OnStar”. :smiley:

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Yeah, when I started reading the piece I was thinking “stalker, probably.” Then later I thought “Lojack.” BTW, why wasn’t the Audi dealership partnering with Lojack, a well-known brand, and probably more lucrative relationship for most dealers? The outcome doesn’t convince me.

By the way, I bought that Lojack crap with my last car, and I would like to find it and rip it out. I’m always getting false alerts just from driving more than about 20 miles from home.

Now adjust your thinking to: “Yeah, I think we passed a cluster of 5 roadside mailboxes a while ago, maybe an hour ago. Haven’t seen anything since.” :wink:

A mere breakdown can be and has been fatal in Australia on many occasions. However in that situation you should be carrying an EPIRB (because you probably don’t even have phone network coverage).

Yes, I’m rambling too.

And before it can be opt-in or opt-out … as you originally said … it has to be disclosed. Only then can you make any kind of decision.

I think there are some unanswered questions about the original story.

Was this a one-off error?

Is it a routine situation? (because the cost of that unit is low and so it is easier to install one in all new cars and then activate if the customer chooses to have the service) It would have been nice if EFF enquired about the cost of the device, particularly if ordered in bulk.

What are the privacy differences between an activated device and one that has not been activated?

Maybe all Audi owners need to, um, audit their cars.

I don’t know if we can be friends anymore.

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Especially if it’s an Audi TT?

Sorry, couldn’t resist. :stuck_out_tongue:

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