My Car Knows Where I Live

I bought a new car a few months back. My other car, my daily driver, I bought new twenty years ago, so it was past time for it to go. My new car has twenty years better performance, twenty years better safety, and twenty years fewer years than my old car. A much-needed upgrade.

But it also has twenty years newer technology. Which is not necessarily good.

For instance, I discovered the other day that my new car knows where I live. I pulled into the garage, turned off the car, and looked at the little display between the speedometer and the tach. It told me that I had gone 17 miles, that the trip had taken me 24 minutes, and that I got 20.4 miles to the gallon.

Clearly, my car knew that I was home, even though I had never, ever provided it that information.

In my day job I’m a high-speed, low-drag tech guy. So I got to thinking, how would I program my car to determine if I were home? GPS coordinates, clearly, but also time spent at those coordinates. I work from home, so my car stays put in the same spot for long periods of time. Maybe it counts overnight? Which would mean it has to read the clock and time between starts… At any rate, my car’s navigation system has determined where I take trips to and from, and how long I spend there. It calls that home. And it’s right.

I don’t like this at all.

Think it through. If my car knows where I live, then so does anyone with access to those records, whether I’ve given them my home address or not. And all that data is synched to a server somewhere. They know my home, where I buy groceries, where I buy gas, how fast or slow I drive, which junk food places I frequent, where I go to the gym (or if I even go), how often I go to the doctor or dentist, where I spend my Monday afternoons, how frequently I leave my home GPS coordinates after midnight… Everything I do in my car. Which, because I’m an American living in the suburbs, is pretty much everything my life consists of.

I deal with data in my day job, so I know how simple it is to tie my driving behavior to, say, my credit card purchase records, or my arrest records – assuming I have any – or to my CVS club card activity. It’s a wealth of minutia, that can spell out any person’s life if you put it all together. And it’s so, so, so easy to put it all together.

What can I do about this? Nothing. The genie is out of the bottle and he’s not going to let us stuff him back in. The only thing to do is manage the situation. Which means I’m going to have to start driving to places I’d never otherwise go. Like a scrapbooking store. Or Forever 21. Or a tuxedo rental place. If someone’s going to track my daily movements, I might as well make it entertaining for them.

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