On Star and Black Box - Tracking concerns

Discussion in 'Chevy Truck Talk & GM News' started by SurrealOne, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member

    1) OnStar changed its policy in 2011. (Article: http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/changes-to-onstars-privacy-terms-rile-some-users/). Media and congressional inquiry pressures eventually caused OnStar to reverse the change, but it's still a dangerously large (for the consumer) gray area.

    2) How so? Well you read what they wanted you to read. I read the fine print in OnStar's privacy FAQ (located HERE: https://www.onstar.com/web/portal/privacy#Track)
    Does OnStar track the location or speed of my car? The simple answer is no. OnStar does not continuously track the location or speed of your car. OnStar only knows this information when:

    • there is a request for service initiated from within the car (when you press an OnStar button to speak with an advisor);
    • there is a request for Stolen Vehicle Assistance or to locate a missing person;
    • there is an Air Bag Deployment;
    • there is an Automatic Crash Response;
    • required by law;
    • required to protect our rights or property or the safety of you or others;
    • required by us for research or troubleshooting purposes; or
    • required for the delivery by OnStar of new or enhanced services that you have requested.

    So even if I don't request OnStar to track my speed/location/other information, if the air bags deploy they are informed of it. Or, if Johnny Law asks them to track it -- they will. Or if they feel they must track my vehicle to protect THEIR (OnStar's) rights ... they will. Or if they feel they need to track me for 'research' purposes (or maybe I'm part of a random sample) -- they will. Or if they are troubleshooting they might track me (deliberately or, again, as part of a random sample).

    There are WAY too many gray areas in that -- where information about me (location) or my vehicle can be tracked by that device/service without my express authorization. I'm a law abiding citizen and have nothing to hide ... but that doesn't mean I shouldn't protect my privacy. I happen to work in information/computer security, so I have a very good idea of what can be done with the information once obtained ... and also how it might be shared, dispersed, hacked, and/or used against me (even in seemingly unmalicious ways -- consider an insurance company that sees that I had an airbag deployment at 56mph and notes in the accident report it was a 55mph zone -- perhaps they might 'do their job' and try to deny the claim?).

    Better safe than sorry. There is no black box in my truck, anymore...
  2. stchman

    stchman New Member

    I'm not going to sit around and worry about big brother all the time. Like it or not they can gather information about you. By unplugging some box, you are not monitor proof.

    Do you have a smart phone? If yes, pretty much all of them have GPS, or other ways to gather or monitor someone. Turning off the GPS is NOT a guarantee.

    Do you have internet in your home? If yes, your ISP assigns you an IP address and that can be VERY easily monitored (what sites you go to, how often you visit them, etc.).

    What of all the information people give out on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.)? Big brother doesn't have to do much except read someone's Facebook page.

    In the end, does the government want to spend the time and money to monitor everyone's activities?
  3. RayVoy

    RayVoy Active Member

    I don't think you removed the "black box" (if your truck has one, I don't know when the "black box" was introduced). You may have removed remote call-in access to the "black box", but I think the "black box" is part of the BCM.

    To the best of my knowledge, the "black box" records a 30 sec continuously rolling segment of the vehicle data. So, your 56 mph, in a 55, could still be captured and used against you in a court of law.

    Of course not.
  4. stchman

    stchman New Member

    In SurrealOne's defense, they would have to physically have the box rather than having a 3rd party gather the data and give it to someone.
  5. RayVoy

    RayVoy Active Member

    Oh, I agree, I don't know the US laws, but in Canada the data can be "viewed" with a search warrant.

    A warrant is not issued lightly, but if there was sufficient reason for a judge to issue the warrant, "big brother" can get it.

    I guess the point is, if you are a "law-abiding" driver you should have nothing to worry about.
  6. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member

    I apologize to the original poster that we're WAY off topic. I had no intention of spawning a left turn in this thread. Thus, this will be my final response...

    I removed the OnStar unit that lives behind the passenger side air bag. That's the 'black box' to which I was referring. It's got the cellular modem, GPS receiver, and interface to the truck's computer.

    They'd have to come face me (not OnStar to get remote data, but me, directly) with a warrant in hand for access to the truck beyond reasonable external observation. I am just fine with that, as that's how it should be. I trust myself to protect my privacy as I see fit -- and that's not true of corporations.

    I am a law-abiding citizen and I don't have anything to worry about. However, I am still vigilant about my privacy and my rights. All citizens should be, ESPECIALLY the law-abiding citizens, as it is their rights that tend to be trampled in the name of protecting them ... when they don't protect their rights. In this case my 4th amendment protection from illegal search/seizure is just too easily violated if I entrust a corporation to protect it. Thus, I choose to do it, myself.

    No one suggested you should. As for me, I don't seek to be monitor-proof. I seek to avoid entrusting protection for my privacy to other entities wherever I reasonably can. Removal of the OnStar unit was one very easy change that allowed me to do just that.. As for your cell phone/internet inquiries, I'm well aware of those concerns, too ... and I take all reasonably appropriate precautions with such devices. As for social media, there's no personal identifiable information about me within it. I'm not most people. :)
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2013
  7. Jamm3r

    Jamm3r New Member

    fnord fnord fnord
  8. redvett

    redvett New Member

    The black box/SDM is only used in an accident. If the accident isnt a fatality or serious injury the data will never be down loaded.
  9. mfleetwood

    mfleetwood Moderator

    Due to the off-topic nature of this (when these posts were attached to a different thread/subject), I went ahead and split the thread and started a new one, as this topic is drawing interest and it appears that people would like to continue the discussion.
  10. Pikey

    Pikey Moderator Staff Member

    required by us for research or troubleshooting purposes

    So, is research to them whom there customers are? So, why not check on them? I have a few friends that worked for onstar here in Michigan. I few years back they would always laugh and tell us at parties how they access peoples info for "research" purposes. They said that with some systems they could actually listen in on conversations in the vehicle with no one knowing. That was a few years ago. Then last summer there was all over the news about onstar doing this. After that they "changed" their policy or actually reworded it so they could still do it.
  11. RayVoy

    RayVoy Active Member

    I worked for the local phone company; years ago, we could listen in on any conversation that we wanted, it was illegal, but that didn't stop people from doing it. They were land lines; then along came cell phones, anyone with a scanner could listen to conversations. Then we went digital (land and mobility) it made "ease-dropping" a little more difficult, if not impossible.
  12. aloxdaddy99

    aloxdaddy99 New Member

    These are all reasons that almost kept me from buying a GM product. The way they wired the newer GM vehicles Onstar is wired into everything. I would like to pull it out of my truck but 1. it is still under warranty 2. I am not sure I would be able to because of the way everything is wired through it.
    I leave my cell phone at the house more than I have it with me. And when it is with me I am at work. LOL
  13. PantheraUncia

    PantheraUncia New Member

    If you can't remove it, then block it. I would just assume that I am going to figure in the cost of my next truck an extra $2500 for a copper or lead cloth to interfere with the transmission of data to their data center.

    I also wonder if someone with a Tech II or MDI could force On-Start to be turned off at the vehicle level where they cannot turn it on with out being connected directly to the vehicle through the OBD II port.
  14. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member

    Disconnecting the gps and cellular antenna leads from the unit should be easy. I don't know if it would throw any codes, but I doubt it. It doesn't entirely resolve the issue but if you then wrap it in copper or lead its range is effectively nil.
  15. PantheraUncia

    PantheraUncia New Member

    I think this stuff would work:

    • 10 mil copper foil
    • 5Ft x 24 inches
    • $102 + shipping


    You know something, not to go overboard on it.... but while copper is expensive, at those prices, I would be temped to copper shield the engine compartment and the cab of the truck and then dyno mat over it to protect all the internal electronics....

    (I am thinking along the lines of someone trying to use an EMP pulse to stall the vehicle......)
  16. SurrealOne

    SurrealOne Former Member

    The foil would be fine but you wouldn't need nearly that much of it. a 2ft x 1ft sheet should be enough to just wrap the OnStar unit.
  17. stchman

    stchman New Member

    If you want to disable OnStar, just pull the power lead to the OnStar module. IIRC, it's under the radio in the dash on the NNBS Silverados.
  18. Jamm3r

    Jamm3r New Member

    Aluminum foil works fine and is much cheaper.

    I'm not worried about law enforcement abuses of onstar nearly as much as I am worried about law enforcement abuses of license plate reader data.
  19. RayVoy

    RayVoy Active Member

    On my old Envoy, the OnStar box was a metal can (probably grounded). As long as the antennas is connected, no amount of foil will shield it.

    Years ago, drivers worried about the paper ticket that was given on toll roads. Time stamped when passed to you, time stamped when you turned it. Easy to tell if you were speeding.

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