In a roller coaster of an election week, it was easy for smaller ballot measures to become overshadowed. One ballot measure that you may have missed is Massachusetts’s Ballot Question 1 regarding the “right to repair” motor vehicles. The ballot measure expands access to a driver’s motor vehicle data. Vehicles are increasingly becoming more computerized due to the use of “telematics systems.” Telematic systems are systems that collect and wirelessly transmit mechanical data to a remote server. The types of mechanical data captured can include location, speed, braking, fuel consumption, vehicle errors, and more. Ballot Question 1 is a measure to expand access to such mechanical data.
Beginning with model year 2022, manufacturers of motor vehicles sold in Massachusetts that use telematics systems must equip the vehicles with a standardized open access data platform. This will allow owners and independent vehicle repair facilities to access the data. Owners will be able to easily view mechanical data on their cellphones. Ballot Question 1 will also give owners more options for car repair services. Local vehicle repair shops will now have access to data that is usually restricted to dealers.
Opponents of Ballot Question 1 are concerned about the widened net of access to a driver’s data, especially location data. There are also concerns about the increased risk for security breaches. Privacy advocates have long voiced concerns about large-scale collection of location data. In fact, the New York Times Privacy Project has published a series of articles about the dangers of unregulated collection of location data.
With the influx of cars with telematic systems hitting the market, ballot measures surrounding access to vehicle data will likely increase in the next few years. However, with counter-veiling privacy pushes to regulate or limit the use of location data, we may also see a tug of war between various laws that seek to provide access to location data and those who seek to regulate the collection and use of that information.
Continue to look for further updates and alerts from Bradley on state privacy rights and obligations.