Thursday, September 22, 2011

OnStar is why I won't buy a GM Car

Pretty strong statement huh?

I have a Jeep Wrangler.  It's very basic, but it fits.  The Basic-ness of the car means that there are fewer things to break so much less to worry about.  It's just about bone-stock other than the larger tires that I got because I had finally wore out the original ones.  I'm not in the market for a new car and won't be for a while at this point since it is almost 10 years old and only has around 42000 miles on it.

GM has some very attractive vehicles.  I truly like the technology that went into the Volt which is an electric car with a gas powered generator.  If you drive it for short distances and charge it when you get home, you can probably get away with never having to fill the gas tank until it evaporates. 

The reason why I didn't replace my old Chevy Nova (think Toyota Corolla) with another GM car back in 1996 when I got the previous Jeep was that I had been burned with weird things breaking on cars before I got the Nova.  The Nova simply had no problems for the time I had it other than it was cranky to start.  So, I wanted simple and that year was the first for the previous model of Wrangler.

Basically about as simple as I could get it, green, automatic transmission, and a basic stereo.  Air Conditioner was required.  I hate to sweat when I drive.

All the while GM was making this deal with OnStar.  OnStar has their electronics installed in your car, and it works similar to a Cell Phone and a GPS.  They can unlock your doors if you lose your keys, get you out of some very difficult situations, and deactivate your car if you have an accident to name a few features.  If you are lost, they know where you are and will tell you how to get back to the main road.

I have also been told that you can disable the OnStar simply by not paying for the service or cancelling your subscription.

Now, the down side of all of this.  It's just too creepy and Big Brothery to me.

Recently according to This Link, OnStar has changed their Terms of Service to allow them to sell at their option all information that they gather due to their services.  Without Your Consent.

If that does not sound creepy and big brothery, remember this is the same company that has gotten caught in the past listening in on people in their cars supposedly to improve "your service".  Yeah, just what I want!  Some drone in an office somewhere listening to me listen to music and break wind from all the carbonation in the soda I drank 200 miles ago on a long haul.  They got their hands slapped on that one but prove to me that they are not still doing it.

You see the problem with this Selling Of Randomized Information With No Personalized Data is that there is no reasonable way you can cleanse GPS data of where you are going.   GPS Data will track you down to a few feet.  With a GPS tracker, in the right conditions you can tell if you are in your yard room of the house or the back. 

Since this service is tracking where you are going, you can build up a very good profile of the "randomized" person that you are watching.  "Randomized John Doe" parks this "Randomized" GM Vehicle at the address of 123 Your Street, Anywhere, USA.  Random John drives it from that address within 15 minutes of 7AM to an office block at 4321 North Commercial Street, Springfield, USA.  The distance is 15.7 miles and he drives with an average speed of 47mph over roads which are an average speed posted of 40mph.  The car sits in the address for the day until around 530pm Random John drives back to the house where it sits for four nights out of the week.  On Friday Night, Random John gets in the car around 630PM and drives to the shops at the local Mall.

I could go on.  You see, the reality is that if you have that information, and the interest to track a specific person, it all the sudden gets very easy to tie this data back to someone and they go from being Random John to a Very Specific John Doe.  After all, we already know it's a GM car in the driveway...

I don't believe that this particular service is worth my selling my location data for.  I'm not interested in making Montgomery Burns a little richer so he can buy that Ivory Back Scratcher when the so-called randomized data is sold.  I'll continue to opt-out of OnStar's "Service" by driving my 9 year old Jeep with 42000 miles and when it's through I'll buy a vehicle without a similar service.  It's just too creepy to me.

The other situation that is possible is that if you own a vehicle like this and you have a legitimate reason to hide from someone you simply can not.  People with restraining orders against their exes would be a prime example of someone who would not want this sort of thing to get out. 

Perhaps it is a bit "tinfoil hat" to be worried about this sort of thing, but personally I find it easy to avoid - I'll avoid the problem by simply not buying a GM car next time around   Sorry GM, you really do have some wonderful cars but this just freaks me out.

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