TECH

law will protect victims of stalking violence

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The president of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Jessica Rosenworcel, proposed, on Wednesday (28), initiatives to make it more difficult for their abusers to track internet-connected cars belonging to survivors of domestic violence.

The proposal comes after some cases have already been recorded, including people who followed their victims using Tesla and Mercedes-Benz's vehicle tracking system, for example.

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Connected Cars and the US Secure Connections Act

The Safe Connections Act, signed into law in late 2022, requires mobile service providers to allow victims of domestic violence to separate their phone lines and connections from those of their abusers as a form of protection. Connected cars are vehicles that are connected to the internet in some way, including a GPS connection.

Rosenworcel told Reuters that the consequences of connected cars, such as the possibility of using the tracking system to follow a victim, fall within the proposed law and must be regulated by it.

A car is a critical lifeline that can give survivors a way to escape their abusers, gain independence, and seek support. Survivors of domestic violence should not have to choose between giving up their vehicle and feeling safe.

Jessica Rosenworcel, chair of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in an interview with Reuters

The proposal to the FCC should be addressed in March, including to seek more information about how car tools can put people's lives at risk.

In the case of Tesla, a woman attempted to sue the company for negligence for allegedly allowing her husband to stalk her using the vehicle's tracking information, despite making multiple complaints to the automaker. Tesla prevailed.

Image: Reproduction/Tesla

Actions to protect connected cars

  • In January, Roseworcel contacted nine connected car manufacturers in the United States, including Tesla, Ford and General Motors (GM);
  • She questioned them about how they were handling their clients' geolocation data and how they planned to help domestic violence survivors separate their connections from their abusers;
  • She also contacted connection companies, such as AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, asking about how geolocation data from connected cars was being treated considering the Secure Connections Act.
connected cars headlights
Image: Vitória Gomez (generated with AI)/Olhar Digital

What the companies said

The FCC chair also told Reuters that automakers responded at different levels of detail. Tesla, for example, said it does not work directly with domestic violence cases, but that car owners can customize their connection and who can access their location.

For its part, Toyota said it will remove access to vehicle location information and connectivity upon request. The proposal will be debated and, if approved, will open public consultation before the FCC makes it a rule.



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