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.

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Filed Under: rental cars, video cameras
Companies: hertz


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 1:41pm

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bob, 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:49pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:13pm

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

        If you use a phone jammer to prevent video from being sent back, how are they going to know? It will simply appear to be a malfunction.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          sigalrm (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:17pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:46pm

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

            Just get one of those multifunction jammers that jams GPS as well, so they cannot compare GPS to cell phone coverage.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 4:13pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 7:03pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        MOSUGOJI, 18 Mar 2015 @ 6:38pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:53pm

      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).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Southpaw, 16 Mar 2015 @ 4:23pm

      Re: electrical tape

      Electrical tape, and cranking up the stereo. This will turn Neverlost into Helen Keller

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    f1498813 (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 1:49pm

    I like how the claim that there isn't "adequate bandwidth capabilities to the car to support streaming video" does nothing to deny the fact that they could just be taking still photos, either on command or at regular intervals.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 1:56pm

      Re:

      Or simply recording to a flash drive or other form or storage located in the vehicle itself, to be copied over once a rental is over with.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      MondoGordo (profile), 17 Mar 2015 @ 9:18am

      Re: bandwidth - Disconnect here ...

      If there isn't sufficient bandwidth to support streaming video ... then how does it support the stated possible future purpose of "... activate live agent connectivity to customers by video."

      These people can't even keep their story straight. That is the hallmark of a lie.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TasMot (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 1:56pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      f1498813 (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:13pm

      Re:

      I would assume there's something about this in the rental agreement that no one ever reads.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:31pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        sigalrm (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:08pm

        Re: Re:

        Hertz has excellent lawyers. And they will require your consent (albeit in the fine print) as a direct condition of renting the vehicle. Take it to court & you will lose, guaranteed.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        pixelpusher220 (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:16pm

        Re: Re:

        Can't be used in court...I give you parallel construction. It doesn't NEED to be admissible, just gives them where to start looking for you and then make up a different plausible story.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          sigalrm (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          It would be usable in court under the 3rd party doctrine. The video and audio in this case are nothing more than business records. Law enforcement just needs to ask hertz nicely.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 4:01pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 1:57pm

    Future is not that far away

    They only keep the cars for, what, 2 years?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:01pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:09pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:16pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 4:07pm

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

        Hertz could solve that by programming the device to scan for and connect to any unsecured WiFi it finds. That would solve the problem of data costa.

        This would not violate the current CFAA, being that you would to break a password to be in violation of the law.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 6:55pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:05pm

    Any bets?

    Anyone want to create a pool as to how long before this system gets hacked and people start getting pwnd in their rental cars? Sorry Hertz, but I've been a VIP Gold Club member for 20 years. I am not sure I'll be renting any more of your cars!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:12pm

      Re: Any bets?

      But... but... I'm sure they'll promise that no-one will be playing voyeur, watching you drive or what's going on in your rental car, isn't that good enough? /s

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:08pm

      Re: Any bets?

      Just get a mobile phone jammer and prevent their cameras from sending back any live streaming video. To the people monitorig the cameras, it will merely appear to be a malfunction, and they will never know what happaned.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 17 Mar 2015 @ 7:57am

        Re: Re: Any bets?

        Why take the risk of getting popped for operating a jammer (maximum penalty for first time offense is $11,000 and 1 year is jail) when you can legally deploy a bit of tape?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TimboB, 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:05pm

    These worries must come from the "conspiracy theory crowd."
    Hertz is an inside job!!!

    Nothing to see here folks, move along.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bwburke94 (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:17pm

    No current plans to use them? Sounds like Hertz is planning on using them in the future.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:37pm

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 2:42pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:02pm

    Note from competitor

    Dear Hertz,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. There is not much you could have done that would better benefit our business.

    Very, very sincerely

    Owners of the Rent-a-Wreck franchises

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:04pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:09pm

      Re:

      I think it would be better to bring along a tablet with 22 hours of midget goat wrestling porn (in hi-def) and place it directly in front of the camera.

      They want to record? Let them record.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:16pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    yankinwaoz (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:38pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 3:51pm

    Maybe they can also throw in a complimentary Hello Barbie for the kids in the renter's family..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 4:08pm

    For-ev-er

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 7:32pm

    they must be the supplier for all those cop cars that have their dash cams turn off at random moments. usually when the cop goes and murders or beats someone half to death.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 7:46pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2015 @ 12:42am

      Re:

      boycotting does not seem to be doing much though. For every person that passive aggressively boycotts there are hundreds more blindly supporting said corporation.

      We might need to be more active. God only knows how.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    khinton, 16 Mar 2015 @ 8:02pm

    Hertz,this is so wrong on so many levels!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Danny Mittleman, 16 Mar 2015 @ 8:24pm

    Mendoza Line

    If "New Coke" is the Mendoza Line of marketing stupidity, this is a notch beyond that catastrophe.

    I sure hope they can field.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 10:53pm

    Did they add a verifiably technical hardware/software off switch option, because if not,......not cool

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2015 @ 1:56am

    All I hear from this PR is this is not a service you use anymore. You avoid it like the plague.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 17 Mar 2015 @ 3:26am

    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.

    Hmmm.

    I just had a great idea! Be back soon. Sending a letter to keyboard makers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2015 @ 3:59am

    Opaque sellotape? I guess the use will increase...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2015 @ 4:44am

    I'd go with a looping video of the crash scene from Airplane played on mobile and positioned in front of the camera...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2015 @ 7:34am

    Perhaps Hertz's National Security Letter

    won't allow Hertz to better explain that the cameras are there to help capture "terrorists".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2015 @ 9:00pm

    Rented a car recently and My car had the new hertz never lost with ththe camera. It creeped me out. I tried turning it away from me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kaze.co.il (profile), 20 May 2015 @ 2:54am

    We all need it in every car

    you never know when you gonna need it

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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  • identicon
    JETOTO, 20 Nov 2016 @ 9:01am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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