Texting in a car

FCC wants cars to make life harder for stalkers

Most new model cars are not just cars anymore. With multiple digital systems, vehicles are increasingly plugged into web applications and digital processes. Some of them are basically smartphones on wheels.

Even if we assume these new features were all created with your convenience in mind, some of them can have some adverse effects on your privacy, and sometimes even your safety.

Addressing the use of connected cars to stalk, intimidate, and harass survivors of domestic violence, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a press release calling on carmakers and wireless companies to help ensure the independence and safety of domestic violence survivors.

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel of the FCC said:

“No survivor of domestic violence and abuse should have to choose between giving up their car and allowing themselves to be stalked and harmed by those who can access its data and connectivity.”

We have previously talked about cars spying on you, and the poor privacy policies that allow manufacturers to sell the data they gather for targeted advertising. We have also written about a federal judge that ruled it’s fine for car makers to intercept your text messages. But those are privacy concerns. Valid and serious, but on a different level from running the risk of being harassed by a jealous ex.

For readers focused on the privacy issues of connected cars, we can recommend the Mozilla report It’s Official: Cars Are the Worst Product Category We Have Ever Reviewed for Privacy. And when you are parting with a car in the US, you may want to look at the Privacy4Cars app that can provide a Vehicle Privacy Report and claims to be able to delete your data. You will need your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

The FCC also asked wireless service providers (AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon) to describe their partnerships with car manufacturers, seeking information on how the wireless providers work with them and what their policies are for handling geolocation data provided by car manufacturers.

The FCC press release includes statistics showing that more than 12 million people each year are the victims of rape, physical violence, and stalking.

Tips to keep a stalker from tracking your car

Not all cars offer these options, and the tips may not apply to your situation, but here are some general tips for people that are afraid they are the target of a stalker:

  • Use the navigation app on your phone, rather than the one built into your car.
  • Do not store places you visit regularly in the car’s navigation.
  • Consider using a VPN when you connect to your car’s hotspot.
  • Find out which devices can access the car or its location data by using any “remote access” apps for the car and remove the devices that are not under your control.
  • Familiarize yourself with the car manufacturer’s privacy policy so you know where your data might be sent. To give you an idea, data might end up with advertisers, law enforcement, service providers, the car manufacturer and its dealers, tech giants like Apple, Google, and Amazon, connected service providers, and government agencies.
  • Keep the software updated to make sure your car is equipped with the latest protection against potential intrusions.
  • If the suspected stalker has been near your vehicle, inspect it thoroughly for trackers and other unfamiliar hardware.
  • Try not to travel alone and always park in a well-lit, busy area if you are concerned about your physical safety.
  • If you have a dashcam that uses cloud storage, check who has access to the images. They can be used to track your movements.

We don’t just report on privacy—we offer you the option to use it.

Privacy risks should never spread beyond a headline. Keep your online privacy yours by using Malwarebytes Privacy VPN.


Pieter Arntz

Malware Intelligence Researcher

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books.