July 19, 2023
With Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signing his Digital Bill of Rights into law that purports to give consumers more control over how large technology companies collect and sell their personal information, the Sunshine State is following a larger trend of rightly treating people’s data as their property, particularly in the absence of a federal data standard.
While Congress has largely failed to pass a national protection model, Florida’s congressional delegation now has the chance to be at the forefront of correcting this wrong.
At the end of this month, the House Innovation, Data and Commerce subcommittee is expected to hold a hearing on how to best protect American’s privacy as private automobiles become more sophisticated, which means Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., the subcommittee’s chairman, and its members, Florida Republican Reps. Neal Dunn and Kat Cammack, along with Florida Democratic Reps. Kathy Castor and Darren Soto, have a chance to finally give their constituents the data protection they need and deserve.
With the dawn of each new day, our cars — America’s principal mode of transport — are becoming less like simple machines and more like sophisticated data hubs on wheels. As we embrace this new reality, we must be mindful of the implications this innovation has brought for privacy, security, and control of our personal information.
The magnitude of data collected by vehicles today is astonishing. Today, a car can know when you leave home, where you shop, your preferred route to work, and even how often you brake abruptly.
Every trip, every stop, every pause at a traffic light, every turn of the steering wheel, and every conversion are all being captured, processed, and stored by car manufacturers and insurers to determine how much they should charge each consumer.
The burgeoning field of autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars, presents a compelling case in point. These marvels of modern engineering are replete with sensors, microphones, and onboard computers that continuously send data back to manufacturers.
Back in 2016, then-Ford CEO Mark Fields stated that his company was moving away from its bread and butter of designing and building cars and wanted to become a data company, like many in Silicon Valley.
This data shouldn’t belong to the carmakers. It should belong to each car owner. It’s their sensitive information — their private property — and it’s critical that Rep. Bilirakis and the rest of the Florida delegation recognizes this reality in its upcoming hearing.
Americans must demand that elected officials use this hearing to urge the car industry to adopt a consumer-first approach to data collection and use. It’s high time for robust privacy laws that prohibit car manufacturers from selling or sharing the personal data they collect without our explicit consent.
Moreover, consumers must have the right to access the data that’s collected about them, understand how it’s being used, and have the power to erase it.
To effectively tackle these concerns, we must also urge the committee to push for transparency in their data handling practices.
Car manufacturers should be required to disclose in clear and simple terms what data they are collecting, why they need it, how long they keep it, and who they share it with. A mandated annual data report to consumers would also be a step in the right direction, enhancing transparency and instilling trust.
As Florida continues to champion the cause of data privacy and challenge how companies handle data, it’s crucial that the rest of the nation follows suit. We must remember that these are not just cars we’re dealing with, they’re data-collecting devices on wheels.
Hopefully, the Florida delegation will step up and ensure that these new-age vehicles provide a smooth ride — not just on the road, but also on the pathway to securing consumer data privacy.
I’m optimistic that they’re up for the task.