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FCC opens rulemaking to probe connected car stalking

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced Monday that it is launching a formal proceeding to study ways to prevent abusers from using car connectivity tools to harass domestic violence survivors.

The agency said it has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking which will home in on how to make sure automakers and wireless service providers are moving to help abuse survivors.

The announcement follows a series of January letters FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel sent to car companies and carriers seeking answers to help inform the agency's work as it enforces the 2022 Safe Connections Act, a law Congress passed to improve access to communications services for survivors of domestic abuse.

The agency will now build on the responses it received, an FCC press release said, and will seek comment on the “types and frequency of use of connected car services that are available in the marketplace today.”

The notice of proposed rulemaking is focused on whether the Commission needs to alter its rules for implementing the Safe Connections Act (SCA) in order to adequately address how connected car services impact domestic violence survivors, the press release said. It also seeks comment on what connected car service providers can proactively do to keep survivors safe from the abuse of connected car tools.

The rulemaking notice refers to possibly designating connected cars as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), a determination that would dramatically increase the FCC’s power to regulate the vehicles and would immediately ban manufacturers from selling geolocation data.

If connected cars are determined to be MVNOs, companies would also be forced to drastically improve transparency on data practices.

The proposed rulemaking will require car manufacturers to further shed light on how their connected car technologies work and whether they are in compliance with SCA.

“Many auto manufacturers obtain the network connectivity to power these services by entering into contracts to access the wireless networks of wireless service providers or other third parties,” the notice said, referring to the definition of an MVNO.

The notice said that SCA line separation requirements apply to “covered providers,” which it said includes MVNOs.

“In this rulemaking we propose that survivors should be able to separate lines that connect their cars, just like they can separate their phone lines from family plans,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “We also ask what more the Commission can do, and what industry can do, to

make sure that survivors feel safe, secure, and free from harm when they use their cars.”

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Suzanne Smalley

Suzanne Smalley

is a reporter covering privacy, disinformation and cybersecurity policy for The Record. She was previously a cybersecurity reporter at CyberScoop and Reuters. Earlier in her career Suzanne covered the Boston Police Department for the Boston Globe and two presidential campaign cycles for Newsweek. She lives in Washington with her husband and three children.