Ford – like many large companies and other automakers these days – has been under fire recently for its privacy practices, which have even prompted legal cases in select parts of the world. Ford CEO Jim Farley previously admitted that data sharing and privacy are sources of tension as companies work to better personalize products while also taking advantage of the simple fact that in today’s world, data is extremely valuable. Now, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has written a letter to a number of wireless service carriers and automakers – including Ford – seeking help in her mission to protect domestic abuse survivors from the misuse of connected vehicle tools by abusers.
“A little over a week ago, The New York Times published a chilling report that describes how connected cars are being weaponized in abusive relationships,” Rosenworcel wrote in her letter to Farley. “As you know, modern cars offer a range of features that improve convenience for drivers, like assistance locating a car in a parking lot, turning a car on remotely, and connecting with first responders in an emergency without a phone. But as the report noted, these features rely on wireless connectivity and location data that in the wrong hands can be used to harm partners in abusive relationships in a number of ways.”
In terms of automakers, Rosenworcel is seeking to obtain more details about connected vehicle services and potential ways that those companies can enable victims of domestic abuse to disconnect from their abusers, as well as how geolocation data is handled.
“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,” Rosenworcel said. “We must do everything we can to help survivors stay safe. We need to work with auto and wireless industry leaders to find solutions.”
Update: Ford spokesperson Alan Hall reached out to Ford Authority and provided the following statement on this matter:
“As part of Ford’s commitment to customer privacy, we provide several ways to turn off access to vehicle location. Anyone who is concerned about tracking for purposes of domestic abuse or otherwise, has options using just the touchscreen controls in the vehicle to:
• Turn off connectivity
• Turn off location data sharing
• Disassociate the vehicle from the smartphone app (which cannot be reversed remotely)”