September 23, 2020

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Ads over Right to Repair campaign full of misleading claims

5 min read

There’s no question cars have become more complicated computers on four wheels.And like the computers we all carry around in our pockets, many cars are transmitting data wirelessly now. Access to that data is really what Question 1 is about, but it’s hard to sort through the facts from the ads on the issue.An ad from the group opposing passing the Right to Repair bill says, “If question 1 passes in Massachusetts, anyone could access the most personal data stored in your vehicle.”The language of the bill says this is for “mechanical data,” not personal data like from a GPS app, but that’s not to say there aren’t still questions about data security.Auto manufacturers want to keep the data to themselves, while their ad says it’s a matter of personal safety. “The Federal Trade Commission warns your address could be paired with your garage codes to get easy access to your home.”5 Investigates found that claim is very out of context. The FTC has warned car owners about the personal information in their car, but they were urging car owners to delete personal information before selling their vehicle, not in relation to this issue.The ad continues to warn people to vote “No on 1” in order to “keep your data safe.”We’re calling that statement “spin” because experts we talked to point out that if sharing that data has some risk, then you’re already at risk because car companies and dealers already have access to it. There is some truth to it because Question 1 would make the data available to more people, potentially increasing risk.The Yes on 1 campaign is countering with their own ad campaign, “The big auto dealers and their expensive dealerships are trying to scare you,” their ad says.The ad goes on to quote former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis as calling the opponent’s ads “a dishonest fear campaign.”But what the ad doesn’t tell you is he’s a paid consultant to the campaign.The ad in support of passing Question 1 goes on to say “Big auto companies are starting to restrict access to your car’s mechanical data to force consumers to dealerships for overpriced repairs.5 Investigates is grading that as “mostly false” because, while access to the data is starting to be restricted, it’s largely not forcing consumers to dealerships for repairs, at least right now. Independent garages have access to onboard electronics through a car’s data port. “As far as we know, the data that is being shared wirelessly via the auto service shops with the cloud is the same data that repair people can get via the port under the dashboard,” said cyber security expert Paul Roberts, who is in favor of the right to repair in general, especially when it comes to electronics. But he says Question 1 is really about access to data being transmitted wirelessly by your car. Roberts added that he has doubts about whether the dealers or independent garages should be trusted with your most sensitive data.So when the ad goes on to claim that “Right to Repair is about protecting consumer choice in car repair,” we’re grading that as “mostly true.” While consumer choice is alive and well today, it may not be in the future if vehicle data moves to the cloud, and experts argue that could restrict your choice, so they say passing Question 1 will insure access to that data no matter where it is.

There’s no question cars have become more complicated computers on four wheels.

And like the computers we all carry around in our pockets, many cars are transmitting data wirelessly now. Access to that data is really what Question 1 is about, but it’s hard to sort through the facts from the ads on the issue.

An ad from the group opposing passing the Right to Repair bill says, “If question 1 passes in Massachusetts, anyone could access the most personal data stored in your vehicle.”

The language of the bill says this is for “mechanical data,” not personal data like from a GPS app, but that’s not to say there aren’t still questions about data security.

Auto manufacturers want to keep the data to themselves, while their ad says it’s a matter of personal safety.

“The Federal Trade Commission warns your address could be paired with your garage codes to get easy access to your home.”

5 Investigates found that claim is very out of context. The FTC has warned car owners about the personal information in their car, but they were urging car owners to delete personal information before selling their vehicle, not in relation to this issue.

The ad continues to warn people to vote “No on 1” in order to “keep your data safe.”

We’re calling that statement “spin” because experts we talked to point out that if sharing that data has some risk, then you’re already at risk because car companies and dealers already have access to it. There is some truth to it because Question 1 would make the data available to more people, potentially increasing risk.

The Yes on 1 campaign is countering with their own ad campaign,

“The big auto dealers and their expensive dealerships are trying to scare you,” their ad says.

The ad goes on to quote former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis as calling the opponent’s ads “a dishonest fear campaign.”

But what the ad doesn’t tell you is he’s a paid consultant to the campaign.

The ad in support of passing Question 1 goes on to say “Big auto companies are starting to restrict access to your car’s mechanical data to force consumers to dealerships for overpriced repairs.

5 Investigates is grading that as “mostly false” because, while access to the data is starting to be restricted, it’s largely not forcing consumers to dealerships for repairs, at least right now. Independent garages have access to onboard electronics through a car’s data port.

“As far as we know, the data that is being shared wirelessly via the auto service shops with the cloud is the same data that repair people can get via the port under the dashboard,” said cyber security expert Paul Roberts, who is in favor of the right to repair in general, especially when it comes to electronics. But he says Question 1 is really about access to data being transmitted wirelessly by your car.

Roberts added that he has doubts about whether the dealers or independent garages should be trusted with your most sensitive data.

So when the ad goes on to claim that “Right to Repair is about protecting consumer choice in car repair,” we’re grading that as “mostly true.”

While consumer choice is alive and well today, it may not be in the future if vehicle data moves to the cloud, and experts argue that could restrict your choice, so they say passing Question 1 will insure access to that data no matter where it is.

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