Over the past few decades, the technologies of mobile communication, positioning, and computing have gradually converged. The automobile has been a natural platform for this convergence where satellitebased positioning, wireless communication and on-board computing work in tandem offering various services to motorists. While there are many opportunities with these novel services, significant risks to the location privacy of motorists also exist as a result of the fast-paced technological evolution. These risks must be confronted if trust and confidence are to prevail between motorists and service providers. This chapter provides an overview of the current situation of location privacy in automotive telematics by exploring possible abuses and existing approaches to curb these abuses followed by a discussion of possible privacy-strengthening measures.
Before delving into the core issue of location privacy, it is important to agree on a definition of privacy itself. Much of the literature pertaining to privacy refers to Westin’s precise definition. In the context of telematics, location privacy is a special case of privacy, relating to the privacy of location information of the vehicle, and ultimately the user of the vehicle.
Privacy is the claim of individuals, groups and institutions to determine for themselves, when, how and to what extent information about them is communicated to others. (Westin, 1967)
How Positioning Systems can be Privacy Invasive?
Positioning systems can be categorized into either being ‘Self-positioning’ or ‘Remote-positioning’. In Self-positioning systems, the vehicle is either fitted with a GPS receiver or Dead-Reckoning system (based on one or more gyroscopes, a compass and odometer) to locate where it is on the road. Remote-positioning systems require a central site to determine the location of the vehicle (Drane and Rizos, 1997). The result is a set of coordinates (or position) of the vehicle expressed in relation to a reference frame or datum. Self-positioning systems inherently protect location privacy because they do not report the location of the vehicle to any other system. On the other hand, remote-positioning systems track, compute and retain the location information at the central monitoring site and creates a risk to the individual’s privacy. Self-positioning systems also pose a privacy risk if they report the vehicle’s GPS-derived location to a server through the communications infrastructure.
ACME Rent a Car Company
Most readers would be familiar with the highly publicized abuse of GPS technology where ACME charged its customers $150 for speeding occurrences of more than 80mph. A customer took ACME to court and won on grounds that the company failed to clearly explain how the location tracking system would be used (Ayres and Nalebuff, 2001). This is an obvious scenario of how personal information can be exploited. It is not unreasonable to imagine that an ordinary car trip can become an Orwellian ordeal when one’s location information can be used in ways not imagined.
Key Terms in this Chapter
In-Car Navigation: Usually a voice-activated system with a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen displaying maps and a combination of on-board GPS receivers, accelerometers, compass and gyroscopes for positioning the vehicle on the map.
Intelligent Transportation Systems: Tools, software, hardware and services designed for the efficient movement of road transportation and provision of travel information to the vehicles.
Vehicle Prognostics: Factory installed systems monitoring and reporting health of vehicle equipment to owner and manufacturer periodically.
Location Privacy: Location privacy is the ability of an individual to control access to his/her current and past location information.
Context Aware Computing: The process of customization of software and services to user preferences. The computing mechanism changes based on the context, in telematics perspective, location is a context for customization.
Telematics Service Provider: Telematics Service providers offer services to vehicle drivers for either a subscription fee or any other arrangement. These can be emergency services or informational services to improve the driving experience.
Obfuscation: Obfuscation is the deliberate degradation of location information by responding in a less granular fashion about requested location data.
Electronic Tolls: Electronic payment systems designed to identify an electronic tag mounted on a vehicle to deduct the toll charges electronically from the vehicle owner’s account.