Hertz Puts Video Cameras Inside Its Rental Cars, Has 'No Current Plans' To Use Them

from the no,-really,-it's-not-switched-on-yet dept

Last week we wrote about the hypothetical situation of CCTV cameras being installed in every home. It turns out that this particular dystopia is closer than we thought: an article by Kashmir Hill on the Fusion site passes on the news that Hertz is putting cameras inside its rental cars as part of its “NeverLost” navigational system:

Hertz has offered the NeverLost navigational device for years, but it only added the built-in camera feature (which includes audio and video) to its latest version of the device — NeverLost 6 — in mid-2014. “Approximately a quarter of our vehicles across the country have a NeverLost unit and slightly more than half of those vehicles have the NeverLost 6 model installed,? Hertz spokesperson Evelin Imperatrice said by email. In other words, one in 8 Hertz cars has a camera inside — but Imperatrice says that, for now, they are inactive. “We do not have adequate bandwidth capabilities to the car to support streaming video at this time,” she said.

So why did it install them?

“Hertz added the camera as a feature of the NeverLost 6 in the event it was decided, in the future, to activate live agent connectivity to customers by video. In that plan the customer would have needed to turn on the camera by pushing a button (while stationary),” Imperatrice explained. “The camera feature has not been launched, cannot be operated and we have no current plans to do so.”

But of course, Hertz would hardly go to the trouble and expense of fitting its cars with this feature unless, at some future point, it did plan to use them. Morever, that future use might go well beyond “live agent connectivity”, as Hill rightly points out:

you could imagine camera mission creep, such as Hertz using it to capture video of what a trouble renter is up to in the vehicle, or to see who is really driving the car, or to snoop on a singing — or snuggling — driver.

According to the Fusion article, Hertz doesn’t seem to be telling anyone about the camera, on the grounds that the company doesn’t plan to use it, and so there’s nothing for customers to know. But if and when it does announce its presence, there will be precisely the problem Techdirt mentioned last week: that people in front of it would naturally be worried they were being spied upon — even if assured to the contrary — and would start constraining their speech and behavior.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: ,
Companies: hertz

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Hertz Puts Video Cameras Inside Its Rental Cars, Has 'No Current Plans' To Use Them”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
58 Comments
bob (profile) says:

Re: Nothing that a piece of electrical tape can't fix.

I imagine they’ll have language in the rental agreement that disallows in any way disabling the camera or audio recording, no matter how temporarily.
and if you do, and there’s an accident or legal question fo some sort, you have voided your rights under the contract, blah blah blah…
sure, you can, but not like it’ll be something that you don’t get chewed on by the corporation and their lawyers for doing.

sigalrm (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nothing that a piece of electrical tape can't fix.

Cache locally until cell service is restored. Done.

Also, it would be fairly trivial to compare GPS location of vehicle w/ cellular coverage map of provider. If they’re using Verizon, and over the course of 8 hours you don’t see any cellular coverage while the GPS shows you’re in downtown LA, you’re busted. Oh, and now you’ve clearly intentionally interfered with the proper function of their vehicle. You might want to check the fine print for penalties for that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Nothing that a piece of electrical tape can't fix.

Just keep the jammer hidden from sight. If you are an executive type, just keep it hidden in your briefcase on an inside suit pocket. If they cannot see your jammer in the video, there is no possible way for them to know for certain that you have one. Just make sure the jammer is charged to the batteries do not run down during the day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Nothing that a piece of electrical tape can't fix.

However, it is not yet a criminal offence to jam their camera. You can get a civil fine from the FCC is you interfere with other nearby cell phones, but there interfering with their streaming video, by using a cell phone jammer is not currently a criminal offense, at least in the United States.

MOSUGOJI says:

Re: Re: Nothing that a piece of electrical tape can't fix.

I wouldn’t hesitate to cover any interior cameras or mics snooping on me. Just like cops that are now forced to wear body cameras to prevent police brutality you can claim that the camera “must have malfunctioned” like they do when they want to beat on a handcuffed victim. They seem to get away with that excuse. And the burden of proof would be on Hertz to prove that their snooping devices were disabled with prior intent.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You don’t have to go that far. The NeverLost is an optional add-on that you pay extra for. The ones that I’ve seen are not physically built into the car — they’re clamped on like any other third party GPS unit. So the solution is to either not ask for the unit or, if you get it because you’re a gold club member, just don’t plug it in.

If there are ones that are built into the car, then yes, I’d go with a bit of tape (rental agreement be damned).

TasMot (profile) says:

So, let’s get this straight, the police think it is NOT ok to record them (you know, public servants getting paid with public money) and so arrest people under wire tapping laws, but Hertz thinks it’s OK to record voice and video of their paying customers in the car they rented and it’s not wire tapping. Boy Hertz in for a surprise when the lawsuits start hitting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

…but Hertz thinks it’s OK to record voice…

Hope they got good lawyers. Last time I checked US Code at least one person had to consent to such recording. (No, that does NOT apply to video, only audio.) In some states ALL parties must consent. No consent and the audio cannot be used in court; likely the attached video wouldn’t be admitted either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If Hertz stores the video on a hard disk, they can destroy it after the car is returned and the video reviewed. A session with KillDisk or Evidence Eliminator, and the data would be wiped where law enforcement would not be able to get anything if they did come and seize the hard disk.

This solves the problem of law enforcement ever wanting to get any videos they have. Hertz could just simply erase it with KillDisk or EE, and that will be the end of it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Lies, damn lies, and PR statements

“The camera feature has not been launched, cannot be operated and we have no current plans to do so.”

Installing a bunch of cameras into their rental cars is not going to be cheap, do they honestly think anyone is going to buy the laughably obvious lie of ‘We have no plans to turn these on, we just wanted to spend a bunch of money in case we ever decide to do so’?

They would not be going through the hassle of buying and installing a bunch of cameras in their rental cars unless they were already planning on turning them on at some point in the likely near future, despite their claims to the contrary.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Lies, damn lies, and PR statements

They would not be going through the hassle of buying and installing a bunch of cameras in their rental cars unless they were already planning on turning them on at some point in the likely near future, despite their claims to the contrary.

They forgot to find out how much the wireless providers would charge them to enable the cameras before they installed them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Lies, damn lies, and PR statements

Only $30 for the Photo Anywhere plan for up to 100 photos, after which it’s only $1 a photo, or you could go with the $60 More Video plan for up to 6 hours of video, after which it’s only $1 a minute!
Price and participation may very, terms are subject to change, see you’re dealer and wireless provider for more details.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Lies, damn lies, and PR statements

One Guy, how did you get to be so cynical? Corporations regularly spend money on things for no particular reason. Don’t believe me? Go into your boss’s office tomorrow and ask for $6 million to spend on something with no particular purpose or prospect of return. I’m sure you’ll get a budget on the spot.

Let me know if I’m wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Last time I checked US Code at least one person had to consent to such recording. (No, that does NOT apply to video, only audio.) In some states ALL parties must consent”

It’s bound to be in the fine print. If nothing else under ‘monitoring’ as everyone knows by now that they are monitoring vehicle performance so it’s not a stretch to interpret that consent as also covering audio monitoring (devil’s advocate). After all there may be some valid purposes eg leave vehicle at night in motel parking lot, loud sound of glass breaking = alert the police. Everyone did read all the agreement didn’t they. Every single time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Monitoring” might hold up in one-party consent states when they argue that the renter is the consenter. However, how well would it hold up in all-party consent states when the renter gives a ride to a friend/colleague, the passenger never sees the fine print, and the renter fails to mention it (probably because despite his fine print consent, he has no idea it’s there)? This could happen pretty regularly for corporate events. Everybody flies in, rents local vehicles, then carpools to lunch.

Anonymous Coward says:

It appears they use mobile internet for the camera. If I ever get a rental car from Hertz, I will have to make sure I have a cell phone jammer to prevent the camera from sending back any video. Just jam its mobile interet, so it cannot send anything back.

I could see the jammer companies getting a lot more business.

Anonymous Coward says:

No current plans

This is standard practice with surveillance equipment. Get the subjects used to it, then when it’s turned on or capabilities are increased there’s less resistance to it. This is not always done for malicious reasons, but is rather the nature of changing technology.

Just think of how widespread public surveillance cameras are now. Initially the technology was poor. Resolution was low, storage was expensive, analysis took much human effort. Now, resolution is extremely high, storage costs are negligible, and artificial intelligence replaces much of the human intelligence needs.

So what do we have? Public spaces that look more or less outwardly similar to the previous decade or two, but with drastically enhanced capabilities. Does the feed of that camera down your street report to a networked database? Who has access to it? How long is it stored?

The scary part is we will likely not realize when facial recognition and ALPR capabilities become standard because there is no physical change to notice.

yankinwaoz (profile) says:

Sorry. It is not clear to me where the camera is going to be pointed. At the driver? Or forward like all those awesome Russian dashcams?

If forward, like the Russian dashcams, then that actually makes sense. They can use it after an accident to determine who is at fault. You are renting THEIR car. They should have the right to see how you drive it.

If it is recording the driver and passengers, then yea, that is problematic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hertz’s claim that “We do not have adequate bandwidth capabilities to the car to support streaming video” is a red herring. It takes extremely little bandwidth to upload photographs — or even to stream low-resolution video. Even in the days of early dialup modems (a fraction of the speed of 56K), there were people setting up auto-uploading of low-resolution photographs once or twice a minute.

People can show their disapproval by boycotting Hertz. That’s what I did when taxis first started installing cameras — just walk out upon seeing one. But that particular form of protest is not possible anymore, as all taxis have cameras now.

It’s the same with McDonalds and other fast-food restaurants blanketing the dining areas with hidden cameras (those grey fist-sized hemispheres attached all over the ceiling.

Cameras are now everywhere. About the only place that *still* does not have any cameras is in the bathrooms, but who knows for how much longer.

security alarm system in chennai-esync (user link) says:

E-sync security dealing security alarm systems chennai and burglar alarm system manufacturers, dealers, distributors and suppliers.

E-sync security dealing security alarm systems chennai and burglar alarm system manufacturers, dealers, distributors and suppliers.http://esyncsecurity.com/ we give wide range of Fire & Burglar Alarm, Our mission is to provide complete, effective, comprehensive security alarm system solutions to our clients at lowest cost chennai.To know security alarm systems chennai call us@ 7299004295.

JETOTO (user link) says:

Car Rental Safety or Customer Privacy?

Car rental firms are studying on projects to develop their safety precautions and that’s not abnormal, because car rental process is very complicated and risky. But, what about costomer privacy and rights and legal aspect of this video camera? If they can guarantee the protection of privacy, I personally welcome this innovation for the car rental community in Turkey.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...