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Today, Public Knowledge and six consumer groups filed comments telling the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that the wireless technology the auto industry will begin to deploy next month makes automobiles more vulnerable to cyberattacks, violates consumer privacy, and commercializes spectrum intended for public safety. In addition, Public Knowledge and nearly 20 consumer groups filed a letter generally supporting the need for a non-commercial condition, and adequate privacy and cybersecurity protections.
The technology in question, “Dedicated Short-Range Communication” (DSRC), was allocated to the auto industry in 1999 for collision avoidance and traffic management. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started a rulemaking 2014 which includes proposed privacy and cybersecurity protections, but that proceeding remains incomplete. Nevertheless, the auto industry will begin to deploy a pre-standards version of DSRC next month. In addition, NHTSA’s public safety proposal would not apply to any commercial applications or services which the auto industry may deploy using DSRC.
The following may be attributed to John Gasparini, Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge:
“The auto industry plans to put DSRC in every car. That imposes an enormous responsibility to ensure that DSRC technology protects user privacy and guards against cyberattack. Although NHTSA has proposed many potential protections, none of these are law, and no one can say with certainty what the final rules will be, or when they would go into effect.
“Additionally, the auto industry can avoid NHSTA’s pro-consumer proposals by operating commercial services using five of the seven channels not covered by NHTSA’s proposed rules. An auto industry spokesman has already said that NHSTA’s privacy proposals would not apply to any commercial use; instead, automakers’ commercial services would set their own privacy terms, ‘like Facebook.'"
The FCC opened an inquiry in response to a petition filed by Public Knowledge in June, which raised these concerns. Since 2013, the FCC and the Department of Transportation have been considering whether the wireless frequencies used by DSRC can be shared with others for uses such as gigabit WiFi. Public Knowledge stressed in its petition that the privacy and cyber safety concerns are independent of any decision on sharing, and requested a separate proceeding for these issues.
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