Don't Track Me

Privacy is becoming a concern on Motorcycles

When I’m riding or driving, I think of my vehicle as an extension of myself. Just like walking down a sidewalk, if I’m operating my motorcycle, bicycle, or car, I assume that nobody knows I’m there unless they see me.

There are a ton of reasons to call me naive. Automated license plate readers keep getting better, there's increased video surveillance, EZ-Pass readers are sprinkled all over the place; the list goes on. However, these are all external to the vehicle. It’s possible to minimize exposure to these by being aware of them, taking different routes, and putting your EZ-Pass in a faraday bag.

EZ-Pass in a Mission Darkness faraday bag
Quieting my EZ-Pass

My thought process here changed when I first read about Tesla using telematics and vehicle data against their customers. A blatant example came up recently when they publicly shared a customer's vehicle data log. The kind of information Tesla gathers from owners, and the fact that they can use it in their defense, is concerning. If you own a Tesla, you have invited them intimately into your driving, and everything that goes on inside your car. You have also effectively given up any advantage you may ever have if you end up in a dispute with Tesla.

It’s not just Tesla though, I learned about Volkswagen’s Car-Net after recently buying a used VW. A quick search on DuckDuckGo can wake anyone up to the risks of driving around with a so-equipped VW. Yeah, I ripped that bug the hell out of our car as soon as possible.

Disassembling dashboard to remove Car-Net
A cellular telematics device was behind the gauges!

Enough about cars, right? Two wheels is where it’s at! Unfortunately, I'm not so sure motorcyclists are in the clear. Being a fan of Zero Motorcycles, I was stoked to read about their SR/F when it came out, but my paranoia kicked in when I read about it being "connected." Minimal research revealed that Starcom Systems developed the IoT (internet of things) capability for the Zero SR/F. Count me out. And looking at some of the newcomers, like Damon Motorcycles, whose copilot system is likely to take a Tesla-like approach to amassing data to train its algorithms, I see a future where riders have to work hard not to be plugged into the matrix.

Zero SR/F Tradeshow Display
Zero's SR/F display at the 2019 IMS

Why is this different than carrying a mobile phone around? Because a phone can be turned off, stuck in a faraday bag, or left home. My relationship and personal contract with my cell phone is known. I expect it to broadcast, I expect it to phone home, and I choose my phone manufacturer with those concerns in mind.

But I don’t want my motorcycle to be an internet device. I don’t want to rip them apart to find bugs to remove, and I don’t want to skip a bike simply because I can’t fully control how it will affect my personal privacy.