14 News Special Report: Digital Driving Record - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

14 News Special Report: Digital Driving Record

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Technology at our fingertips is helping us get from point A to point B.  

While very few of us would be comfortable with someone knowing our every move, what about giving strangers a road map to your personal life?

Just how much information that's out there about where you go and what you do in your vehicle may surprise you.  

Could it be that our cars are spying on us?

It's the time most of us can unplug to be alone with our thoughts driving to and from work, or around town with the kids on an errand. But these days we are rarely truly disconnected and all that convenience comes at a cost.

"If you choose to do these things, you will lose a lot of your privacy," computer science professor, Dr. Adel Elmagraby says.

Dr. Elmagraby says to think of your vehicle as a complex network of computer systems.

"They evolved from just one unit to multi units, then they became networks of computers within the car. Then came the GPS, came the entertainment systems, came the cell phones. They all became connected to the same network," Dr. Elmagraby says.

And just who has access to that network. That's hard to say.

"Everything we do is being collected in some sort of electronic database," law professor Michael Losavio says.

Losavio says many of us have invited complete strangers into our cars without even knowing it, through location and emergency systems like Gm's OnStar or Toyota's Safety Connect.

It could provide a world of information about you.

"If someone gets access to your GPS track, they can see that you went to an oncologist's office. Now they know that there's a pretty good chance that you're being at least examined for cancer," Losavio says.

If you are saying, 'I don't have that, so this doesn't apply to me,' think again. Chances are, if your car was made in the last 10 years, it has what's commonly called a "black box," an event data recorder in the event of a crash. The government is considering making those mandatory.

Just who should have access to that information is still a fierce debate.

The non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation says there's no limit to the amount and type of information these recorders collect, or how far back that information might go.

Already your car records a wide variety of information.

When the check engine light comes on, it's time to go to the mechanic.

"Some cars you can get more information than others," mechanic Mike Ochsner says.

Losavio says once you give that information up, you no longer control who has access to it, including insurance companies and law enforcement

"What if they go to the dealership and say, 'Can we see all of the records regarding what this person has been doing with their car?' The dealership can say, 'Well sure,'" Losavio says.

He says as with so many things that involve rapidly evolving technology, lawmakers need to act to outline who can collect that information, what they can do with it and if they can sell it to third parties.

"I think if you know that people are monitoring you, you can make that decision," Losavio says.

Until then, Dr. Elmaghraby says the best advice may be to play it safe, even in what you believe is the privacy of your own car.

"Only do things that you are willing that the whole world will know," Dr. Elmagraby says.

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