FCC Chair Advocates for Inclusion of Carmakers Under U.S. Domestic Abuse Law

The chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission is set to propose a potential new rule on Wednesday, aimed at subjecting automakers selling internet-connected cars to a telecommunications law designed to safeguard domestic violence survivors.

Instances of technology-facilitated stalking involving cars are coming to light as automakers incorporate increasingly advanced features, such as location tracking and remote control functionalities like locking doors or activating the horn.

Last month, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel reached out to nine major automakers and three telecom providers, requesting further details on their policies regarding internet-connected car technology and its implications for domestic abuse. Citing the federal Safe Connections Act, which grants the FCC authority to assist domestic abuse survivors in securely accessing communications, Rosenworcel emphasized the agency’s role in addressing this issue.

Automakers urged to implement measures protecting domestic violence
Automakers urged to implement measures protecting domestic violence survivors from vehicle stalking.

Under this law, the FCC has mandated telecom providers to segregate phone lines associated with family plans where the abuser is a member. In a recent interview with Reuters, Rosenworcel highlighted the parallels between issues concerning connected cars and domestic abuse and the FCC’s existing efforts in implementing the Safe Connections Act.

Rosenworcel plans to distribute a “notice of proposed rulemaking” to fellow FCC commissioners, asserting that certain types of connectivity arrangements in cars fall within the purview of the law. If endorsed by the full FCC, this would initiate a formal public comment period, potentially paving the way for new regulations in the sector.

Rosenworcel stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of domestic violence survivors and the security of their connections. The proposed notice will invite feedback on proactive measures that car service providers can implement to shield survivors from stalking, harassment, or intimidation through their vehicles. Rosenworcel expressed openness to innovative suggestions in this regard.

A December report by Reuters featured a woman who sued Tesla, alleging the company negligently failed to assist her after she repeatedly reported her husband’s stalking and harassment using the automaker’s technology. Despite her complaints, Tesla contended that she lacked evidence linking her husband’s actions to the car’s technology.

The Tesla lawsuit underscores the need for regulations
The Tesla lawsuit underscores the need for regulations ensuring safety and privacy in connected cars.

According to the lawsuit, when the couple purchased the car, the husband configured the settings to grant himself administrator privileges on the account, listing the woman as an additional driver. Consequently, she couldn’t revoke his access without his password. Tesla purportedly declined her requests to remove him, citing his co-ownership of the vehicle.

Rosenworcel queried auto companies last month about their procedures for responding to requests from domestic violence survivors to revoke access to connected apps for individuals listed on the title. While some automakers provided detailed responses, Tesla’s reply didn’t specifically address domestic abuse concerns. Instead, Tesla emphasized customers’ ability to manage access permissions and didn’t tackle the issue of removing access from titleholders.

On the other hand, Toyota stated that if a domestic abuse survivor listed on the title requests the disabling of connected services for another person, the company might seek verification from law enforcement confirming the customer’s status as a victim. Toyota emphasized the importance of prompt response to survivors’ requests while ensuring proper authentication to prevent fraudulent or abusive claims.

The chairwoman anticipates that the FCC will likely address this issue in the coming month.

Sajda Parveen
Sajda Parveen
Sajda Praveen is a market expert. She has over 6 years of experience in the field and she shares her expertise with readers. You can reach out to her at [email protected]
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