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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Privacy and Speeding

An interesting case has just come down from the Connecticut Supreme Court: American Rental Car, Inc v. Comm'r of Consumer Protection.  In short, a rental car agency installed GPS tracking devices in its rental cars, enabling it to track renters' location--and speed.  In the rental contracts, the fine print enabled the company to charged the renter $150 for every time the renter exceeded 79 miles per hour for more than two minutes. 

The rental company was sued by the state (!) for violating the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act -- and won.  The court found the term to be an illegal penalty rather than a permissible liquidated damages provision under the statute because it charges 400 times more than the increased "wear and tear" effected by the speeding.

If this technology is available, could the state be doing this kind of speed tracking itself?  I suppose we have no right to be free from speeding regulation or any reasonable expectation of privacy in the speed of our cars.  Still, it seems creepy, no?

Posted by Ethan Leib on May 18, 2005 at 02:43 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Creepy yes, but we are well down that slippery slope. Virtually all new cars have as part of their airbag system an event recorder that can at minimum tell how fast you are going, which direction, and braking usage. This is not disclosed to buyers, and they do not "own" the data. In fact it has been used in criminal prosecutions. Say hello to big brother.

Posted by: roy solomon | May 19, 2005 12:54:54 PM

Is it really any different than the use of E-ZPass, the electronic toll payment system, to track mileage and time? It is used, for example, on the New Jersey Turnpike. Since the E-ZPass logs one in at a certain toll booth at a certain time and then logs one out at another toll booth, a known distance away, again at a certain time, could not a computer also compute average speed over that distance and effect the issuance of a speeding ticket if average speed exceeded the posted speed limit? All it would take is several lines of additional programming using technology already in place and used countless times each day. Having had the misfortune of driving on that roadway more times than I care to remember, I know that very high speed travel, beyond the point of recklessness, is not an uncommon occurrence.

Posted by: JohnG | May 18, 2005 5:01:07 PM

Ian Ayres had an interesting article about this case (or a nearly identical one). Unsurprisingly, he thought the car rental company was correct (because it makes sense from an economics/incentives perspective).


Posted by: YLS Grad | May 18, 2005 3:20:07 PM

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