LiDar developed by Ford for the Ford Focus self-driving car.

LiDar developed by Ford for the Ford Focus self-driving car.

With virtually every car manufacturer on the planet heavily investing in the development or research of self-driving or assistive driving technology, driverless cars are virtually guaranteed to play a huge role in the future of transportation. Despite growing mistrust of the technology and an inability of self-driving cars to reliably function in rain or winter conditions, many states are already legalizing driverless car usage and investing heavily in the required infrastructure. But the technology that is being developed to power these cars will inherently open them up to some quite significant violations of personal privacy, and not just for passengers but also other drivers and even pedestrians.

In order for a self-driving car to properly function it needs to be able to generate a highly accurate 3D model of the car’s surroundings and real time traffic conditions. The technology required to do this is virtually incapable of doing so without meticulously identifying everything from local topography to other cars near it. It will even even need to be able to identify pedestrians that could potentially cross the car’s path. The obvious question is, then, how deep will this spacial awareness go, and what happens to the data that the car collects?

LiDar.

LiDar.

The primary technology that most self-driving cars are employing is a powerful remote sensing system called LiDar, which measures distance by firing lasers at its surroundings. The data is then analyzed and used to construct real time 3D models of the surrounding area of the self-driving car. However, the ability for LiDar to generate accurate 3D data is limited in any condition that will affect visibility, including rain, snow or fog. Many self-driving car manufacturers are looking to support their LiDar systems with ancillary technology that will fill in any holes created by these limitations. These include highly detailed 3D maps generated of local topography by satellites and localized 3D scanning as well as the ability to communicate with, and read any geolocational data from, other nearby vehicles.

“The availability and resolution of imaging from satellites, drones, self-driving cars and more will continue to increase exponentially. This will drive the creation of ever more sophisticated analysis algorithms, products and companies,” Sedicii Innovation CEO Rob Leslie told InfoWars.

Who will have access to all of this data?

Who will have access to all of this data?

Leslie is the founder of privacy and identity verification software developer Sedicii and was also contributing to the agenda at the 2016 World Economic Annual Forum that was held in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland January 20th to the 23rd. The Zero Knowledge Proof Protocol was developed and patented by Sedicii to eliminate any extraneous transmission, storage or exposure of private user data during online transaction authentication or identity verification. Not only can this information often legally be sold to advertising and data collection firms, but if intercepted it can often lead to identity theft, impersonation or fraud. The software exists to allow users to consume digital services without being forced to share or expose any private data. But with self-driving cars, that data may legally be required to be shared, which could lead to massive privacy violations that would be very difficult to prevent.

While InfoWars bombastically declares that self-driving cars will be used as “ground-based surveillance drones,” the idea isn’t as far-fetched as it may sound at first. The fact is that self-driving cars will absolutely need to be able to communicate with each other in some way to prevent any collisions or traffic slowdowns. While it would be possible to limit the amount of information shared between vehicles, car manufacturers aren’t typically known for limiting the collection of data. General Motors admitted back in 2011 that the OnStar system installed in most of their cars automatically collects personal data from any vehicle with the technology, even after the driver opts out of the service.

Cars will soon be legally required to communicate with each other.

Cars will soon be legally required to communicate with each other.

The information that OnStar collected included speed, locational data and even if the seat belt was being used. And of course GM is allowed to turn around and sell that data to whomever they want, including marketing companies, insurance companies and even law enforcement organizations. There are many who already think that GPS data collection is a huge violation of privacy, but with the introduction of self-driving cars and their reliance on that data, those violations will be even more intrusive. Some laws are already being drafted to make the sharing of that information not only legal, but a requirement.

These laws are being billed as a way to help prevent accidents and reduce driver error, which they will most certainly do, but there is often very little provision put in place to prevent car manufacturers from recording and selling that data. And because the technology is required to collect data from other cars, even self-driven cars, in order to function, all of that data can also be recorded. Self-driving cars really could be capable of collecting some pretty comprehensive amounts of personal data and there are not a lot of legal protections against the misuse of that data. It is very evident that this technology is being developed with a huge amount of government support and virtually no considerations of the violations of privacy that will be written into law by it.

The Google self-driving car.

The Google self-driving car.

It is easy to dismiss the suggestion that self-driving cars will essentially become surveillance drones as a conspiracy theory. But once you take a close look at the technology that is actually being developed it becomes considerably harder to ignore the potential for that to happen. The world is already struggling to maintain personal privacy in the virtual world where it is nearly impossible to do anything online that doesn’t leave a clear set of footprints behind you. With cars and vehicles being indispensable to society and the roads that carry them woven throughout the entire country, it really isn’t hard to imagine all of that data easily being used to create a nationwide real time traffic map that will know where any driver is at any given time.

The idea that anyone could potentially know exactly where you are at any given moment really should terrify you. Especially when that information will be in the hands of large corporations who already freely collect and sell your personal data. If you think that too much of your personal data is already being collected by the websites that you visit online, just wait until your personal data is being collected by all of the businesses that you visit, or even simply drive past, each and every day.

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