Hertz Puts Cameras in Cars But Promises No Spying

Why put cameras in cars if you don’t plan to use them?


So according to a Hertz spokesman there is nothing to worry about. An article at Fusion.net reports,

Hertz has offered the NeverLost navigational device for years, but it only added the built-in camera feature (which includes audio and video) to its latest version of the device — NeverLost 6 — in mid-2014. “Approximately a quarter of our vehicles across the country have a NeverLost unit and slightly more than half of those vehicles have the NeverLost 6 model installed,” Hertz spokesperson Evelin Imperatrice said by email. In other words, one in 8 Hertz cars has a camera inside — but Imperatrice says that, for now, they are inactive. “We do not have adequate bandwidth capabilities to the car to support streaming video at this time,” she said.

So why is Hertz creeping out customers with cameras it’s not using? “Hertz added the camera as a feature of the NeverLost 6 in the event it was decided, in the future, to activate live agent connectivity to customers by video. In that plan the customer would have needed to turn on the camera by pushing a button (while stationary),” Imperatrice explained. “The camera feature has not been launched, cannot be operated and we have no current plans to do so.”

The device is often included as a free perk for Hertz’s “Gold” members, meaning Hertz is taking the risk of creeping out its most loyal customers with the camera eye in the car. When asked whether customers were informed there would be a camera in the car, or told under what circumstance it would be activated, Imperatrice again emphasized that the cameras had never been used. “The camera on our NeverLost 6 devices has never been active (hence, it is never on) and we have no current plans to activate the camera in the future,” she said by email.

These cameras are positioned to view everything in the car. What I don’t understand is how we are supposed to believe that Hertz is neutral about whether or not to use those cameras some day. Even if they don’t have the bandwidth yet, they obviously didn’t pay to have the cameras installed in an eighth of their fleet for no reason. They invested the money in the hope of generating a profit. The plan may be simply to offer the option of two way video communication. But how will you know?

[See also, “Cameras Save Lives… Maybe; But They Definitely Make Money And De Blasio Wants More Of Them.”]

In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on a rent-to-own company that failed to warn customers that it had put spyware on their laptops so that it could turn on the built-in cameras if they failed to make payments. (During its investigation, the FTC discovered the company had taken photos of users having sex.)

But what happens when the FTC changes the regulations. Furthermore, how long before the NSA finds a way to degrade the security on these cameras so that they can spy on any driver without their knowing about it?

[See also, “Cities Sue Their own Residents over Red Light Cameras.”]

In my opinion, we will soon all be carrying thick, black duct tape so that we can cover up any spying camera lens in our car or room.