Privacy or Safety -- Why Should We Choose Which Is More Important?

When it comes to vehicle recalls, I have always believed that safety comes first. One major challenge is the millions of vehicles on the road with open safety recalls and, with many vehicles changing hands privately, it is a monumental effort to identify those owners and notify them about an open safety recall and the risk to them, their families, and fellow drivers.

 

And then consider owners who never transfer a title or registration and continue to drive the vehicle on the original owner’s plates. Legislation is already being passed in at least one state which gives vehicle owners more time to transfer registration due to COVID. If the registered owner of the vehicle no longer “owns” it, they will probably simply trash the recall notice -- if they get one at all.

 

So, what can be done to identify those drivers and their vehicles?

 

Well, there has been quite a bit of buzz recently about technology such as tracking smartphones, CCTV cameras, facial recognition technology, and license plate readers -- to name a few. The problem, according to law enforcement, has always been that, while they have all this data, it is not connected in any way. Not anymore. Technology now exists which combines multiple data sources into one. Something that would take observers or investigators hours or even days to combine and analyze can now be done in seconds via this software. The military has been using it for a while and even a few municipalities in our country. Sounds scary, right? The makers of this software agree, but it exists, and Pandora’s box has been opened.

 

There are no current laws that prohibit this exchange of data. Should this become the standard -- the ability to track any individuals while they travel on public roads? There are even more invasive aspects of this technology. However, it’s possible to also use this same technology and data to save lives at risk of a dangerous recall.

 

Combining the license plate readers with facial recognition could match up who is driving a vehicle versus who it is registered to. Through those datasets, the government, services like ours, and even dealerships could reach out and notify the right person – that 2nd and 3rd generation owner, along with those who haven’t registered or transferred title to a vehicle.

 

I’m not advocating this specific solution or that the lines of individual privacy aren’t blurred here, but it is an intriguing conversation to have. In the name of public safety, I wouldn’t rule out developing technology. This may sound dystopian or something out of George Orwell’s book “Big Brother,” but it exists right now and is already being used. Absent a legal challenge, more states, cities, counties, and the Federal government will continue to adopt and install these systems. If we know that the technology exists and that it is already in use, it’s possible that NHTSA would deploy this strategy to instantly connect the dots and increase safety recall repair completion rates.

 

Do you think the use of this technology to keep the roads and drivers safe is warranted? Or is too intrusive when it comes to an individual’s privacy? I value your opinions on this topic!

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