I believe that GM’s long-term goal is to see to it that not only every GM vehicle is equipped with a “black box” (technically, an Event Data Recorder, or EDR) but that all vehicles are so equipped – and every single driver in the United States – possibly the world – monitored whenever he or she is operating a motor vehicle.
There is big money in it: Automated tickets, jacked-up insurance fees for “speeders” and seat belt scofflaws – as well as “marketing opportunities” for GM’s “partners,” whom GM will provide all sorts of juicy tidbits about your life to – including where and when you shop, so that they can “target” their advertising your way...
I test-drive new cars each week to review them for my weekly car column. Part of my test drive includes running the car at a good clip “up the mountain” – a series of S turns that takes you up about 1,600 feet in elevation over the course of about two miles. One week not too long ago I was testing a GM vehicle. I took it up the mountain at a good clip – faster than the posted speed limit, to be sure. This apparently alarmed OnStar because as I reached the final curve and straightened the car out, all of a sudden the stereo cut out and a loud female voice replaced Van Halen: “Are you in need of EMS?” This startled me for a moment. Then I realized what had happened. The creepy OnStar unit was triggered by my speed (and the rapid change in altitude). It assumed I had wrecked the car- even though I promise all four wheels never left the pavement and were entirely under my control at all times. And it decided I needed “help.” I didn’t, so thanked the operator for her concern but noted to myself that here was proof positive that OnStar is Watching You.
I didn’t ask to be watched. I don’t want to be watched...
Now comes evidence – in the form of OnStar’s latest Terms of Service – that my instinctive paranoia was well-founded about where all this is going.
The TOS announces that OnStar – that is, General Motors – will henceforth collect data about your driving habits “… for any purpose, at any time … .” Previously, OnStar only kept track of data relevant to an accident, in the event of an accident.
Now it will keep track of everything, all the time.
The TOS attempts to soothe the immediately obvious concerns any half-awake person might have after reading the above by going on to state that “… following collection of such location and speed information identifiable to your Vehicle, it is shared only on an anonymized basis.” Except, of course, that such data is essentially useless when anonymized...
And to whom will the data be provided? TOS says “public safety or traffic services.” Translation: Insurance cartels and cops...
GM also will “share” details about your personal life with its “partners” in order to “… allow us, and our affiliates, your Vehicle Maker, and Vehicle dealers, to offer you new or additional products or services; and for other purposes.”
All without your consent – indeed, against your express wishes.
You can’t say no to OnStar – unless you say no to GM, period – and don’t buy a GM vehicle.
If your GM vehicle has Onstar, the TOS explicitly states that it will continue to record and collect your data even after you cancel your service. The only way to be sure Onstar isn’t watching you is to physically disable the system on your own – by cutting wires or just smashing the infernal thing...Addendum: A hat tip to BJN, who found that as a result of recent bad publicity, GM is now revising the terms of service and at least will not continue to record data after the user cancels the service.
The worst part, though, is not the insolence of GM. It is the indifference of the public. I doubt most GM vehicle owners will even bother to read the latest TOS and the few that do either won’t comprehend or care what about what’s been put on the table.