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Mercedes benz with the prevailing wind

The Mail can be a little sensationalist sometimes. I am hoping that some of our well informed and technically aware commenters will tell me that the following story is ridiculous:

How ALL cars could spy on you like Mercedes by 2022: EU plan could see location-tracking devices fitted in new vehicles despite privacy concerns

All new cars could be fitted with devices to track down drivers that are speeding, driving irresponsibly or have fallen behind on finance payments, under controversial new plans.

From 2022 the EU wants all cars made inside the Union to feature location-tracking devices so they can monitor speed, driving behaviour and whether motorists are using safety features properly.

The black boxes have sparked a privacy row with drivers concerned they are ‘being watched’, as trackers can be activated without their knowledge.

Yesterday Mercedes was at the centre of the uproar after bosses admitted all new and used cars sold by them are fitted with trackers.

A silly and alarmist piece, right? What is being proposed is beyond the capacity of current technology, surely? Not to mention legally out of the question, irrespective of whether Britain is in or out of the EU. That’s right, isn’t it, guys? Guys?

17 comments to Mercedes benz with the prevailing wind

  • Mary Contrary

    Beyond current technology? Not even close.
    Compatible with GDPR? Highly dubious at first glance, but the Germans take that seriously so perhaps Mercedes found a loophole.
    If you can find the transmitter, disabling or defeating it will be easy. The problem will come when that also has the effect of disabling the satnav, or worse, the insurance policy.

  • bobby b

    It’s tough to find a GM vehicle not equipped for Onstar these days.

    Onstar does all of the things described here. Cops can track it, murder cases have been solved by the police by requesting car audio recordings from Onstar – and it’s been around for years.

  • SkippyTony

    I have a friend with a newish 7 series BMW. He was driving down a motorway and gets a call from a service tech at BMW. His car is transmitting a serious mechanical fault alert and could he please pull over and turn off the car?

    So, yes.

  • Agammamon

    Its not only well within the current tech, its been so for about 15 years now. All it takes is a GPS, a map, and a phone connection.

    And its certainly not illegal in the UK, let alone the EU.

    Technically, there are workarounds that make it legal in the US (3rd party doctrine, for one).

  • Julie near Chicago


    Hope that helps.


    However, the Chinese apparently have the technology to do seriously horrendous amounts of spying on their residents. I would take it for granted that that includes spycars, although I don’t know for a fact.

    . . .

    Some years ago I got so sensitive to the anti-privacy spying that even the idea of a mini-cam in the nursery or the kids’ playroom put me on edge.

    Even though I can certainly see the argument for it. If the Y.M. and I were almost 41 years younger, but with my current views, would I do that? Not sure. Kids can and do get into everything, including adult-proof medicine bottles, but most of them survive.

  • Mark

    Hundreds of thousands of morons do it voluntarily!

    Be tracked 24/7 via your phone and we’ll give you ten quid off your car insurance.

    If you then renew without the big brother option do your premiums take a major hike? Well what is it you now want to hide?

  • Lord T

    and they wonder why car sales are down 20%. Between this and the ‘enhancements’ they make as ‘upgrades’ that make your car more of a pain to drive it is no wonder people are holding on to their cars longer and/or buying different models.

    I’ve changed my car buying habits since my Volvo tried to kill me.

  • neonsnake

    A silly and alarmist piece, right?

    Yes, and no. In the sense that it’s a Daily Mail piece, so it’s full of words like “insisted” and “admitted”, and sentences like this: ” laws would mean black boxes could be used to data analysis and potentially passed onto third parties.”, then yes, it’s alarmist.

    However – once you get past the alarmist and weaselly language:

    beyond the capacity of current technology, surely?

    Not even slightly 😉

    My car has a tiny camera in the rear-view mirror, pointing at me. If I take my eyes off the road, then the sensitivity of the collision sensors gets amped up. If I take my hands off the wheel, the dash lights up like Christmas. If it senses that I’m tired (if I’m driving erratically, I think), I get a beeped at and an icon of a coffee cup. Apparently, and I’ve never tested it, if I carry on driving erratically, eventually the car will limit my speed.

    I drive on the assumption that all of this data is stored somewhere for posterity, and the alarms aren’t just a “one and done” job when they go off. The GPS stopped working after the first month I had the car – I’ve deliberately not bothered having it fixed.

    I was, just a few weeks ago, having a drink with a much younger ex-colleague, 24 or 25, and we got to talking about car insurance. Apparently, many of his friends reduce their insurance payments by having black boxes installed (or maybe just activated), which track their speed. They speed, their premiums go up.

    Some even have curfews – if they agree not to drive after 10pm, they get cheaper insurance (neither of us were sure exactly how it works – presumably/hopefully, a one-off rush to take your mum to the hospital at 2am wouldn’t result in inflated premiums)

    And yes, anecdotally, if you renew without them, apparently your premiums become higher than if you’d not had them in the first place, although that’s quite hard to objectively prove.

  • John B

    Tracking devices have been available for installation in vehicles for over twenty years as an anti-theft measure, to help recovery particularly of high value vehicles.

    Collecting all the data suggested in the article will require significant storage. Collecting data is one thing, making sense of it and using it another. And isn’t the alleged EU requirement in breach of its own data regulations? Not of course breaching its own rules has ever stopped the EU.

  • Ian Bennett

    I have a device, supplied by the Automobile Association, plugged into the diagnostic port of my car which, in conjunction with a cell-phone app, not only sends me alerts if it detects a system issue (temperature sensors and so on) but also tracks and displays the car’s location. I assume that it also connects with AA HQ to alert them of major issues.

    The difference is, of course, that this is entirely voluntary, and I could unplug it at any time.

  • The difference is, of course, that this is entirely voluntary, and I could unplug it at any time. (Ian Bennett, August 21, 2019 at 12:28 pm)

    An important difference.

    We’re not leaving the EU a moment too soon!

  • bobby b

    My auto insurer gives me a 20% discount because I downloaded their app into my phone. It gives them location data, speed data, miles traveled, places visited . . .

    But I have a very cheap pay-per-minute phone that I bought for such purposes, and for when someone insists on validating my ID with a working phone number. It sits on my dresser at home, and costs me almost nothing.

    There are always work-arounds.

  • Runcie Balspune

    And yes, anecdotally, if you renew without them, apparently your premiums become higher than if you’d not had them in the first place, although that’s quite hard to objectively prove.

    I’ve rarely gone two years with same insurer, don’t they massively increase premiums anyway ? I find it hard to believe an insurer charges even the same amount (+/- £25) after the first year, despite a depreciating vehicle increasing no-claims and moving away from known accidents.

    Hecks, when I took my prang-prone missus off the insurance the premium went up !

  • Mark

    @Bobby b

    An obvious thing to do but is there a clause that might invalidate the insurance if you have a bang and then are not able to provide the requisite big brother diary entry?

    If you had to make a claim, or somebody else did against you I would have thought that would be the first thing they’d ask.

  • Sam Duncan

    As the late Christopher Booker kept telling us back in the ’90s, this is what the EU’s “Galileo” GPS knockoff is for.

  • Tedd

    Yesterday Mercedes was at the centre of the uproar after bosses admitted all new and used cars sold by them are fitted with trackers.

    As an engineer for a small car company, it’s a surprise to me that this was a surprise to anybody. Yes, if your car was built in the last few years (quite a few, for some models) then the company that built it has a log of everywhere the car has been since it left the factory, with quite a lot of detail about how it has been driven.

    There’s a lot that’s good about that. It helps us understand how people drive our cars and leads to improved products. I hold a lot of the responsibility for the safety of our cars and I’m really glad I have this data. But it’s important that customers know we have it because they need to be concerned about us being forced to share it. We have zero interest in sharing this data, but we of course would if forced to by law.

  • Paul Marks

    In a few years companies will be able to monitor most people most of the time (not just know where you are – but also know what you are saying and doing) – if (for example) someone makes a comment that might be considered “racist”, “sexist” or “homophobic” they will find themselves dismissed from their job, and unable to have a bank account, and unable to engage in trade in the “cashless economy” that Mastercard (and so on) are working for.

    And some of my libertarian brothers and sisters will still be saying “it is not like the totalitarianism of the Chinese Social Credit system – because these are private companies, so it is O.K.”

    The fact that Corporate and Government bureaucracies are joined at the hip and made up of people who were trained in the same totalitarian doctrines, such as “Hate Speech is not Free Speech”, at school and university, passes some people by.

    Still, at least in the Unites States, the President is against this creeping totalitarianism as our some people in the House and the Senate – although how much influence elected people have over the permanent government is open to doubt.

    It is possible (possible) that some freedom will survive in the United States – with the First Amendment meaning that (if the left do not take over the Supreme Court – which THEY WILL if the Democrats win the Presidency again) the American government will not mandate that ALL companies follow totalitarian doctrines such as “Hate Speech is not Free Speech”. Whilst a few companies dissent from the “Social Justice” doctrine, there is still hope.

    The prospects of any freedom surviving outside the United States are not good (indeed they are close to zero – although not actually zero), even in the United States – if the new Progressive Democrats ever control five justices on the Supreme Court liberty will be exterminated.