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Connected cars: a cyber-security nightmare on wheels

In the meantime cameras pointing inwards for gesture control, coupled with Bluetooth microphones for hands-free calls, could be used to capture private conversations from inside the confines of cars.

As with any devices that are capable of tracking movement or behaviour, the data captured by these devices is also extremely valuable to corporates, and it is highly unlikely that the user of a car will consider the fine print of the privacy policy which they are accepting by turning the key in the ignition. These are trends which are only likely to be continued the further the process of automation in vehicles is pursued.

News that internet companies are interested in automotive as a new opportunity for development does not reduce that concern. Most such entities operate on revenues derived from data exploitation to a greater or lesser extent, and it is inconceivable that there will not be many customers (from insurers to advertisers and even governments) desperate to get their hands on the information that may be harvested from the average driver. For that data to be meaningful it needs to be collected in real-time, increasing the pressure for some degree of outbound connectivity which the driver does not have control over.

Crashing code

I could go on. As systems become inter-connected the likelihood of a crash of some critical element increases – and a crash becomes a more literal possibility when the failing component or software is responsible for critical driving functions. If there were to be an accident involving a fully automated vehicle, who would be responsible? The driver, or the programmer of the software that failed? If drivers will continue to be liable, it needs to be born in mind that monitoring by insurance companies could lead to targeted premiums, leading to the result that those who present the greatest dangers on the road are the least likely to be insured because their premiums will be the highest.

The list of concerns is almost endless, and until there is a good deal more evidence of car and technology companies working together to address these risks, the future of automotive is not for me!

  • Will Richmond-Coggan is a solicitor advocate with higher rights of audience and has considerable experience of litigating in the High Court and at Court of Appeal level, with specialisms including Data Privacy and Internet Security.