from the fear-mongering-ahoy dept
A few years back, frustration at John Deere’s draconian tractor DRM culminated in a grassroots tech movement dubbed “right to repair.” The company’s crackdown on “unauthorized repairs” turned countless ordinary citizens into technology policy activists, after DRM (and the company’s EULA) prohibited the lion’s share of repair or modification of tractors customers thought they owned. These restrictions only worked to drive up costs for owners, who faced either paying significantly more money for “authorized” repair, or toying around with pirated firmware just to ensure the products they owned actually worked.
Of course the problem isn’t just restricted to John Deere. Apple, Microsoft, Sony, and countless other tech giants eager to monopolize repair have made a habit of suing and bullying independent repair shops and demonizing consumers who simply want to reduce waste and repair devices they own. This, in turn, has resulted in a growing push for right to repair legislation in countless states.
To thwart these bills, companies have been ramping up the use of idiotic, fear mongering arguments. Usually these arguments involve false claims that these bills will somehow imperil consumer privacy, safety, and security. Apple, for example, tried to thwart one such bill in Nebraska by claiming it would turn the state into a “mecca for hackers.”
While there’s been no shortage of bad faith arguments like this, the auto industry in Massachusetts has taken things to the next level. The state is contemplating the expansion of an existing state law that lets users get their vehicles repaired anywhere they’d like. In a bid to kill these efforts, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents most major automakers, has taken to running ads in the state falsely claiming that the legislation would aid sexual predators:
The primary message of the ads is that if we allow people to more easily repair their vehicles, data from said vehicles will somehow find itself in the hands of rapists, stalkers, and other menaces. Granted actual experts have made it abundantly clear that this is utterly unfounded. The existing law requires that automakers use a non-proprietary diagnostic interface so any repair shop can access vehicle data using an ordinary OBD reader. It also makes sure that important repair information is openly accessible. The update to said law simply attempts to close a few loopholes in the existing law:
“Question 1 seeks to close a loophole in that earlier law, which exempted cars that transmitted this data wirelessly. As cars become even more computerized, independent repair shops are worried that manufacturers will do away with the OBD port and will store this data wirelessly, exempting them from the earlier law. The new initiative simply guarantees that car owners and independent repair companies can access this data wirelessly without “authorization by the manufacturer,” and requires car manufacturers to store this data in a secure, “standardized, open-access platform.”
One local ABC affiliate in Massachusetts thoroughly debunked the ads’ claims. Experts told Matthew Gault at Motherboard that the real goal of the auto industry here is to simply shift all of this diagnostic tech to wireless to wiggle around the law. In part to maintain a monopoly on repair (letting them drive up the cost of taking your vehicle to the dealership), but also to further obscure all the driving, location, and other data automakers are collecting and selling to a long list of companies:
“My guess is what automakers really don’t want to talk about is all of the data that they are collecting from connected vehicles that they’re not telling us about,? Paul F Roberts, founder of Securerepairs?a group of security and repair professionals who advocate for security and repair issues?told Motherboard on the phone.
?The backup safety cameras that go on every time you put your car in reverse, are those on all the time and are they observing your surroundings and inferring data about your whereabouts and preferences?? Roberts said. ?The in-cabin cameras that we know Tesla has on their cars, are those just monitoring you all the time? are they monitoring your GPS data and mining that or selling that? We don?t know.”
Of course they’re collecting and selling that data with minimal oversight. The United States still lacks any meaningful privacy laws for the modern era, in part because many of these same companies have opposed such legislation. Because it’s hard for the auto industry to honestly admit it wants to monopolize repair, drive up consumer costs, and obfuscate the wholesale hoovering up and sale of your data, they’ve apparently concocted a grotesque bullshit narrative that the legislative updates will somehow aid sexual predators. Stay classy, Alliance for Automotive Innovation!