Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big Brother gets more intrusive on the road

I'm bothered by two recent reports, one from each side of the Atlantic.

From England it's reported that a new in-car computer may soon control your speed while driving - whether you like it or not.

A sophisticated in-car computer could soon make it impossible for motorists to speed.

The system detects the speed limit and automatically slows the car if it is being driven too quickly.

It pinpoints a vehicle's exact location via satellite and accesses a database of every road's speed limit to determine how fast the vehicle should be travelling.

The Intelligent Speed Adaption system will be unveiled today as part of the largest-ever pilot of its kind.

It is seen as a blueprint for a nationwide scheme which could add around £500 [about US $760]to the cost of a car.

But critics last night claimed that it was further evidence of state interference.

They say it undermines motorists' freedom and claim it could hinder, rather than aid, road safety.

. . .

The system offers the driver two modes - voluntary and advisory - as well as an override button.

In advisory mode the screen displays the speed limit and a face that smiles if the driver sticks to the limit and frowns if they go too fast.

It is the voluntary mode, however, that safety campaigners hope will one day become mandatory.

When vehicles reach the speed limit the accelerator is prevented from speeding up the car, no matter how far it is depressed.

There's more at the link.

Do please note the sentence in bold print. If these busybodies get their way, British motorists won't have any choice - they'll have to buy cars fitted with these things, and they won't have any option but to let it control their speed. That's all well and good, from a safety point of view - but what about an emergency? What if I've got to get to hospital in a hurry? What if my child is stuck at a party where things are happening that scare her, and she wants me to come and get her as quickly as possible? What if this device causes more harm than it prevents?

I certainly wouldn't permit such a device to control my driving - and I daresay many drivers feel the same. I foresee a booming backyard industry in England, deactivating this thing!

The second report is from Wisconsin, where it seems that one's right to privacy doesn't prevent the police from surreptitiously placing a GPS tracking device on one's vehicle - without a warrant.

Wisconsin police can attach GPS to cars to secretly track anybody’s movements without obtaining search warrants, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

However, the District 4 Court of Appeals said it was “more than a little troubled” by that conclusion and asked Wisconsin lawmakers to regulate GPS use to protect against abuse by police and private individuals.

As the law currently stands, the court said police can mount GPS on cars to track people without violating their constitutional rights – even if the drivers aren’t suspects.

Officers do not need to get warrants beforehand because GPS tracking does not involve a search or a seizure, Judge Paul Lundsten wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel based in Madison.

That means “police are seemingly free to secretly track anyone’s public movements with a GPS device,” he wrote.

One privacy advocate said the decision opened the door for greater government surveillance of citizens. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials called the decision a victory for public safety because tracking devices are an increasingly important tool in investigating criminal behavior.

Again, there's more at the link.

This worries me very much. I'm not a criminal. I value my privacy, and I will not permit others to trespass upon it. The fact that law enforcement may want to know what I'm up to, due to an ongoing investigation, is all well and good - but at least let them have to prove their point to a judge, and produce evidence, and obtain a warrant! Otherwise, what protection do I have against Big Brother getting nosy?

We've just seen a report from the Department of Homeland Security that could be used to brand fully half the US population as 'suspicious' or 'potentially subversive'. This sort of bureaucratic obfuscation and mission-creep is a major threat to our civil liberties. If they and their minions can get away with warrantless tracking of our movements, what's next? Mandatory installation of GPS trackers in all vehicles, to make their job easier?

No. This nonsense has to be stopped.



Anonymous said...

A boneheaded move like that would totally kill off sales of new cars. And they tried to force folks to retrofit such devices into cars, there will be massive civil disobedience!

Or maybe computer hackers can just hack the devices to make every car think it's on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway!


Arthur said...

I'm from WI and the first thing through my mind was "I wonder if it would be illegal for me to 'alter' any electronic devices I find in/on my car".

I suppose they would make illegal if it wasn't already.

Crucis said...

It isn't half the population that the DHS wants to watch---only those who didn't vote for BO.

Wayne Conrad said...

How many drivers know that many new model cars have something like a "black box" in them that records information of interest to insurance adjusters and accident investigators? The black box records, for the few moments leading up to airbag activation, such things as whether or not you were wearing your seat-belts, your speed, and whether or not you were applying the brakes.


Old NFO said...

Wayne touched on it, but two points, the black box actually records 30 minutes to 1 hour of data, and TODAY you can be GPS tracked if you have ONSTAR or a similar communications package, like XM traffic alert!

hmmmm... WV- subject, that's wierd.

Wayne Conrad said...

Oh, On-Star. Yeah. Why would people buy a car that's pre-bugged, and can be controlled (turned off) remotely? Have they thought that through? You don't even have to subscribe to the service for these features to be used. It can be activated remotely. Just a radio signal...