The battle over right to repair is a fight over your car’s data

Article by Ofer Tur-Sinai: “Cars are no longer just a means of transportation. They have become rolling hubs of data communication. Modern vehicles regularly transmit information wirelessly to their manufacturers.

However, as cars grow “smarter,” the right to repair them is under siege.

As legal scholars, we find that the question of whether you and your local mechanic can tap into your car’s data to diagnose and repair spans issues of property rights, trade secrets, cybersecurity, data privacy and consumer rights. Policymakers are forced to navigate this complex legal landscape and ideally are aiming for a balanced approach that upholds the right to repair, while also ensuring the safety and privacy of consumers…

Until recently, repairing a car involved connecting to its standard on-board diagnostics port to retrieve diagnostic data. The ability for independent repair shops – not just those authorized by the manufacturer – to access this information was protected by a state law in Massachusetts, approved by voters on Nov. 6, 2012, and by a nationwide memorandum of understanding between major car manufacturers and the repair industry signed on Jan. 15, 2014.

However, with the rise of telematics systems, which combine computing with telecommunications, these dynamics are shifting. Unlike the standardized onboard diagnostics ports, telematics systems vary across car manufacturers. These systems are often protected by digital locks, and circumventing these locks could be considered a violation of copyright law. The telematics systems also encrypt the diagnostic data before transmitting it to the manufacturer.

This reduces the accessibility of telematics information, potentially locking out independent repair shops and jeopardizing consumer choice – a lack of choice that can lead to increased costs for consumers….

One issue left unresolved by the legislation is the ownership of vehicle data. A vehicle generates all sorts of data as it operates, including location, diagnostic, driving behavior, and even usage patterns of in-car systems – for example, which apps you use and for how long.

In recent years, the question of data ownership has gained prominence. In 2015, Congress legislated that the data stored in event data recorders belongs to the vehicle owner. This was a significant step in acknowledging the vehicle owner’s right over specific datasets. However, the broader issue of data ownership in today’s connected cars remains unresolved…(More)”.

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