FCC presses carmakers, wireless companies on connected car systems over reports of misuse by domestic abusers

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is asking carmakers and wireless service providers to give more information on car applications that have reportedly been used by domestic abusers to track victims.

The FCC sent letters to nine different car companies and three voice service providers to ask for more details on the connected car tools and how they may be misused by domestic abusers. The agency cited a New York Times report from last month that detailed how abusers were using internet-connected apps in their cars to stalk and harass their victims.

“No survivor of domestic violence and abuse should have to choose between giving up their car and allowing themselves to be stalked and harmed by those who can access its data and connectivity,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “We must do everything we can to help survivors stay safe. We need to work with auto and wireless industry leaders to find solutions.” 

The FCC cited the Times’s reporting in its letters to car companies and the wireless companies, including examples of how abusers misused the systems to harass their victims. 

“For example, the report recounts in detail how a woman was tracked by a former partner through connected services associated with the car she was using. In another example, a man used his remote access to the car to harass his wife by activating the car’s lights and horns at night and running the car’s heat on hot days,” according to the letter to the car companies.

“The report finds that car makers have been reluctant or unwilling to assist victims of this abuse or restrict abusive partner access to the car’s connectivity and data—particularly when a victim co-owns the vehicle or is not named on its title,” the letter continues. 

The FCC is asking the automakers for more information on the “connected car systems they offer, any existing plans to support survivors in their efforts to disconnect from abusers, and how these companies handle consumers’ geolocation data.” 

The letters to the wireless companies ask for details on car services, how geolocation data is treated, current adherence to the Safe Connections Act of 2022 and whether they provide the car services to consumers who are not customers of theirs otherwise.

The FCC is asking for a response by Jan. 26.