These days we’ve all become accustomed to personal tracking. Our phones track us, whether we want them to or not. Google and Facebook swallow up the data and create massive profiles where they can target advertising and more to us as we go about our merry oblivious way.
But did you know that your Car can Track you too? And maybe not to a big faceless corporation, but to an individual without your knowledge?
Back in 2018 I think, I bought a nice white Ford F150. I bought all the warantees and options, got a pretty good deal I felt from the dealership. Bought it up in Mississippi at my hometown dealership, and they delivered it to me down here in Florida. All in all, a relatively painless experience.
One of the upsells they offered was a thing called ELO GPS. Sold as both an anti-theft and family security offering, it’s basically an internet connected LoJack. They install a little box in some secret location of the car, and it radios back all kinds of telemetry that I can monitor from a browser or their mobile app. In the app I can see the realtime and historical location of the car, along with things like speeds, mileage, battery voltage, and a few other bits. It has some nice features like SMS & Email notifications of events, and I can set geofencing to let me know if the car moves without my knowledge.
In late 2020 I changed jobs. Where I previously drove 15 miles of easy highway to work, now I drive 50 miles of congested interstate to work. As much as I loved my F150, I traded it in for a new Tesla Model 3. Not dealing with gas, toll fee benefits, and autodrive were all deciding factors in my decision, but not relevant to the article.
Tesla picked up my truck, gave me a great trade-in value, and I didn’t worry about it ever again.
A few weeks later I got an email from ELO GPS that my car’s battery voltage had dropped to 10.4V. I hadn’t thought about it in a while, but I figured up the app and logged in again. Sure enough, there’s my truck sitting in the Dealership Lot. I could see every test drive with timestamps, locations, and full routes.
It was funny, but I didn’t think too much of it and deleted the app from my phone.
This morning I got another email: Congratulations my car just rolled over 37,000 miles.
I went to the website and sure enough: There’s my car. But this time it’s not sitting in a dealership, it’s sitting in someone’s driveway in Ocoee, FL. With a little bit of clicking around, I discover that I can pull his trip records going back weeks (maybe months?) .. Easily, I find the new owners:
- Home Address - in Sanlando Springs, FL
- Work Address - in Ocoee, FL
- Favorite stops
- Work Schedule - he leaves his home every morning a bit after 6am, and clocks out of work right at 5pm
- He seems to enjoy lunches at the Ocoee Taco Company
And much more.. It’s a bit frightening. I don’t think he has the slightest idea that this is on his vehicle, and there’s no way for me to notify him without just randomly showing up at his home or work to let him know.
In the new always-connected world, it’s no surprise that our cars have this kind of capability. What’s surprising is that it has become so invisible that something as common as reselling a car doesn’t trigger any kind of check or verification that this is an option.
Rest assured, next time I buy a used car I’m going to reach out to ELO and any other trackers I can think of and check if my VIN is registered with them.