BOSTON (WPRI) ─ This November, voters casting their ballots in Massachusetts will be deciding whether to update the state’s “Right to Repair” law.
The law gives Massachusetts car owners the right to choose where they take their vehicles to be repaired.
The referendum in the upcoming election would ask voters whether the law should be updated to include a technology called Telematics, which would “collect and wirelessly transmit mechanical data to a remote server.”
The update, according to Director of the Right to Repair Coalition Tommy Hickey, would allow an independent repairer to diagnose the car, order the part and schedule the repair at the same time.
“[They’ll] have this wireless information that wasn’t covered in the 2012 law,” he explained.
Hickey said called the use of the wireless data “a more comprehensive way of fixing a car.”
“You would get all the diagnostic repair information from the telematic system directly to you,” he said. “So you get a notification and you could share that information with an independent repairer of your choice.”
But Spokesperson for the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data Conor Yunits argues that using this technology is a danger to a car owner’s personal information.
“At stake is personal privacy, cyber security and personal safety in some cases,” Yunits explained.
Yunits said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent a letter to Massachusetts lawmakers addressing those concerns.
“It would basically make everyone’s vehicle information accessible, and it’s not just information being received,” Yunits said, “Question One also allows for information to be uploaded to vehicles. So it could be malware, it could be ransomware, it could be as simple as somebody taking control of the vehicle, which is something that the NHTSA specifically warns about in their letter.”
Hickey disagrees with those concerns, arguing that there is no security risk.
“We don’t see any cyber security risks. There have been a number of cyber security experts that have looked into this,” he explained. “This is about repair codes and diagnostics, nothing more.”
Yunits cited a similar proposal in California that voters didn’t give the green light. Hickey said that proposal was “a dangerous piece of legislation” because it allowed real time geolocation and transferring to third party directly.
“That’s not this bill,” he said. “This bill is about getting the owner of this car repair information as it says in the actual language.”
A vote against the proposal would keep the current law as is and a vote yes would allow Telematics information to be used by local repair shops, so long as the car owner authorizes it.
Hickey said if the proposal were to pass, it would also mandate car dealers to inform customers of what Telematics is, how it’s used and how they can control it.