Big Brothers Behind - Murray State University`s RacerNet

General Background
Having a cake and eating it too…
• Our modern era has brought a dramatic shift
in the balance between convenience,
security, and privacy.
• Security is a major concern when dealing
with valuable possessions, whether concrete
or abstract.
• Conveniences often become necessities once
their advantages are internalized by society.
O, Big Brother where art thou?
• Big Brother is a shadowy figure from George
Orwell’s novel “nineteen eighty-four”.
• Synonymous with abuse of power,
particularly violations of privacy rights.
• Typically applied to government authorities,
this is extensible to any group
inappropriately utilising mass surveillance.
• OnStar is a multifunctional service available
to vehicles with the necessary hardware.
• Although integrated into some vehicles, a
rear-view mirror with OnStar abilities was
released in 2011.
• Provisions include “… Automatic Crash
Response, Stolen Vehicle Tracking, Turn-byTurn Navigation, and Roadside Assistance.”
So, how did we get here?
• Formed in 1995 in cooperative venture
between General Motors, Electronic Data
Systems, and Hughes Electronics Corporation
• Initially a feature of luxury vehicles:
Cadillac DeVille, Seville, and El Dorado in
1996 on 1997 year-models.
• From 2002 to 2005, other brands, like
Subaru, featured OnStar via a licensing deal.
How is OnStar faring?
• Ford’s SYNC, Orion VIS, WatchDog, State
Farm’s In-Drive, A Toyota Mystery System..?
• As of mid-2011, OnStar had more than six
million customers.
• Subscriptions cost from 18.95/month to
729.00/3 years.
What about that competition?
• SYNC is an in-vehicle communications and
entertainment system with several
assistance features (automatic 911 calls,
Vehicle Health Reports, etc.)
• In-Drive has the Stolen Vehicle Assistance,
as well as Hands-Free mobile and
vehicle/driving reports
What about the others?
• WatchDog is a general application, but
particularly tailored to fleet-management,
with systems like the Electronic Fence.
• Orion claims to have all OnStar’s features,
but in a portable system with usercontrolled reporting and a user-controlled
sensors (deactivable), and fleet
So, this is a big thing?
• A series of commercials aired based on the
1989 Batman movie, touting OnStar as an
all-important feature of the batmobile…
• Done in a mini-serial style, these were
memorable and effective, driving home key
points of OnStar’s product concept.
• Riddle Me This
Now where’d you get that?
What are the issues?
• Having introduced our topic and its “sphere
of existence”, it is now necessary to delve
into the details. This means looking at how
OnStar and its policies affect its customers.
• The our assessment of how OnStar strikes
this delicate balance is presented by Mr.
Pros and Cons
Onstar can be a great asset
Being safe is a good thing
Automatic Crash Response
In the event of an accident, even if the airbags do not
deploy, Onstar receives the vehicle's exact location and
sends emergency responders.
Being safe continued
Crisis assist
Provides people with evacuation routes to get them out of harm's way
and provide them with fuel location assistance.
Connects people with their loved ones, family, and friends.
Provides centralized assistance if people need food, water, medical help,
or a hospital.
Helps find accommodations and shelter.
Onstar makes things easy
No need for a backup key
If you happen to lock your key in your car, you can call
Onstar and they will unlock your car for you remotely.
OnStar, there's an app for that...
Power OnStar from mobile devices with RemoteLink
Remote Unlock
Remote Start
Sound your horn
Flash your lights
Monitor fuel and oil
Check tire pressure
Send navigation data
Don't get lost
OnStar makes it easy to use turn by turn directions.
1. Send Google Maps information from your computer to your vehicle
2. Send MapQuest information from your computer to your vehicle
3. Tell an OnStar Advisor where you want to go
Car thieves beware...
Remote Ignition Block
- When an OnStar subscriber reports a vehicle stolen and authorities confirm,
Remote Ignition Block uses GPS to ping the car and prevent it from
Stolen Vehicle Slowdown
- When a car is reported stolen by an OnStar subscriber, and when the police
catch up to the thief, OnStar uses GPS to pinpoint the vehicle, turns on
the four way flashers, and decreases the acceleration.
But what's the catch?
Security risks
Lack of privacy
How much is it?
Safe & Sound
Directions & Connections
$18.95 per month1
$28.90 per month1
$199.00 per year2
$299.00 per year2
$359.00/ 2 years2
$549.00/ 2 years2
$499.00/ 3 years2
$729.00/ 3 years2
Plus tax. Credit card payment required for monthly subscriptions.
Plus tax. All savings calculated based on standard published monthly rates.
Pricing data from
Too risky?
Researchers from the University of Washington and the
University of California, San Diego were able to gain
access to the vehicle's critical areas through the
vehicle's long range communication channels.
link to full research:
Results from experiments
Where is all this coming from?
Privacy? What privacy?
One of the biggest concerns of OnStar is privacy.
...which brings us to our next section with
Ruiwei Bu!
Privacy Issues and Cases
OnStar Corporation
OnStar Product
Court To FBI: No Spying
Analog Service Terminated
OnStar China(吉安星)
EULA and Privacy Issues
OnStar Family Link
FBI and Government
• The system can be remotely activated, is an
open phone line, and there could be no sign,
so passengers may not be aware.
• Privacy Policy: "OnStar may disclose
personal information if required to do so...“
• 2003: Court informed FBI: No spying on in
car computers.
Analog Came a Spider
• In 2006, notified 500,000 customers who had
analog service that their service would be
terminated at the end of 2007…
• Customers have to pay to upgrade.
• Lawsuit in Pennsylvania.
Privacy Issues
• In 2011, a new version of Terms and
Conditions states that "OnStar may maintain
a two-way communication after the
customer have cancelled the service..."
• Collects personal information, GPS Data....
• Senator Chuck Schumer's Criticism
Privacy Statements
• Will continue to focus on the ways it can use
its vehicle connection to help drivers, such
as for alerting customers about tornado
• OnStar may share your email address,
contact information, subscription status
with car makers, parent companies,
including but not limited to ...
Privacy Statements
• “(17)... Aggregate information may be
shared with or sold to third parties for any
• OnStar amy share your email address,
contact information, subscription status
with car makers, parent companies, include
but not limited to ...
Privacy Statements (Cont)
• “We may also randomly monitor your
interactions with OnStar's automated service
... (Call Recording) OnStar will not release
any audio or physical records unless
otherwise required by applicable laws and
regulations or requested by proper
government agencies.”
OnStar Family Link
• Monitor positions of family cars
• It's depending on the subscribers to tell
other family members
OnStar - Big Brother?
• OnStar is essentially an in-car phone line
service, and can be activated remotely…
• So it's like a microphone that can monitor
you and your car…
• Might nefarious hackers (and government
agencies) exploit this?

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