Let’s be absolutely clear here: what I’m about to tell you about is a very bad precedent for anyone who works on their own cars, or may want to work on their own cars in the future, or even anyone who wants to keep any control over their own transportation, and not become a data farm for huge companies. In a European Union vote today about autonomous vehicle registrations, it was decided that any telemetry generated by the vehicle is copyrighted by the carmaker. This is bad.
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Not only is it bad, it doesn’t even make any sense; auto-generated telemetry data is not a creative work, and, as such should not be eligible to be copywritten. In fact, there was an amendment in the regulations that made this concept very clear:
“7a. Notes that data generated by autonomous transport are automatically generated and are by nature not creative, thus making copyright protection or the right on databases inapplicable.”
During voting, this amendment was singled out by the European Peoples’ Party, a center-right political party, and put to an unusual Roll Call Vote, where it was voted down.
The result is that without this clause to protect it, telemetry data can be copyright and therefore the property of the carmaker, who can then withhold that data from the owner/end user, or sell an owner’s data to other companies—insurance, marketers, advertisers, whatever—without the owner’s consent.
Keep in mind, this data could contain GPS data, effectively allowing for personal, non-consented location tracking of the car’s owner.
We’ve already seen what happens when a manufacturer restricts access to owners’ data in the case of John Deere, who is making it incredibly hard for farmers to fix the machinery they’ve paid good money for. Hopefully, in the U.S. we won’t allow companies to lock owners out of their own data.
As an owner, you generate that telemetry data; it’s as much yours as anyone’s and companies should not get the rights to that data just handed to them. It’s too important for many, many reasons, including urban planning and design, traffic control and management, personal recordkeeeping, and, yes, the right to diagnose and repair a vehicle you own.
Hands off our telemetery, you bastards.
Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)