Mercedes has sparked a privacy dispute by admitting it spies on motorists with tracking devices covertly placed in its vehicles, and the secret sensors, fitted to all new and used motors sold by the firm’s dealers, pinpoint the vehicle’s exact location.
The firm sold more than 170,000 new cars in Britain alone last year, but Mercedes will not say how long it’s used the sensors and maintains they’re only activated in extreme circumstances when finance customers have defaulted on their payments.
However, it does admit to sharing car owner information and vehicle location details with third-party bailiffs and recovery firms who repossess the cars and ex-cabinet minister David Davis has asked for the Government to investigate.
But this is not the first time big business has behaved like Big Brother but it’s unusual to be quite as cunning as this, and is it even legal to pass on information to other people such as bailiffs? And the government should look really closely into the validity of this procedure.
And even though Mercedes’ actions is extremely disturbing, this appears to part of the staggering growth of surveillance and this seems to another troubling development in the way companies control what should be private and personal data and this modern technology means our ability to keep personal information private is under threat like never before.
Organisations that manage personal data need to be totally upfront about what they’re doing but Mercedes seems not to have been so in this case and its clients may start to worry about what other private data the company may be collecting and passing on.
Mercedes competitors including BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volkswagen have all said they don’t carry out similar tracking, and previously the Sun investigated and revealed that Amazon staff can listen to Alexa recording British couples rowing, discussing private family matters and even having sex.
Mercedes customers who buy cars through the official financial arm give their consent when signing lengthy terms and conditions, which frequently go unread and Mercedes maintained the clause about “location sensors” are in bold print just above the customer’s signature on finance contracts.
If Mercedes wants to install this privacy-surrendering tech in their vehicles, that’s fine but surely they have a responsibility to explicitly tell their clients beforehand, and not hide it away in their terms and conditions.
So, what happened to the EU data protection rules? And having them means that companies and businesses should process data in a fair and lawful manner, for a specified and legitimate purpose and only process that data necessary to fulfil its purpose – but they don’t!