‘Cartapping’ Decreases Privacy for Connected Vehicles

Connected devices are on the rise, there’s no doubt about that. From Amazon’s Echo to connected vehicles – the ability to connect your device to the web isn’t so far fetched.


As connected devices gain popularity, law enforcement officials have the ability to pull surveillance information from the technology. The real kicker? They’ve been doing it for over 15 years. That’s right, when it comes to your connected devices, law enforcement has had the ability to “cartap”, or pull surveillance from your connected devices. Take the 2016 Arkansas murder for example, law enforcement made a suspect hand over audio from their Amazon Echo. Cartapping has been happening for years — in a 2014 warrant, New York police officials were able to pull SiriusXM Satellite location information. The police asked SiriusXM to install a tracker in the vehicle’s car, which was up for an alleged illegal gambling enterprise, for a period of 10 days. But how exactly could they tap into the vehicle? Well, it was quite easy. SiriusXM reported that they turned on the stolen vehicle recovery feature, which was a subset of its Connected Vehicle Services.

But exactly how many other companies are pulling connected information?

cartapping-and-connected-carsThe real question is this: if SiriusXM has the ability to pull real-time connected vehicle information, what other providers have that same ability? As smart speakers, such as Amazon Echo, hit the market running — are they storing our information? What about autonomous cars? Most likely, yes, they are.

University of Dayton law professor, Susan Brenner’s blog coined the term “cartapping” in her blog, which covered many of these cases.


Brenner said, “My sense is that people take the technology so completely for granted that they forget that it has the capacity to bite back…Most people are still quite naive about embedded technologies, and therefore tend to forget that it can compromise privacy.”

Brenner makes an extremely valid point. Many of us do forget that these devices are learning a lot more about our movements than we even realize. New technology is giving our society a push in the right direction, but we must remember exactly how much our connected devices are hearing and storing…