Why Are Rental Cars Pointing Their Cameras at You?

By Lee Bellinger / May 11, 2015

Starting in 2018, all new passenger cars will be equipped with rear-view cameras. In the name of safety, the U.S. Department of Transportation has seen fit to mandate the installation of these cameras, along with display screens. Whether you want them or not.

Could mandatory driver-facing cameras be next? Well, if you rent a car, you may get to experience the feeling of driving with a camera lens pointed straight at you the whole time. The newest generation of Hertz’s NeverLost navigation devices come with cameras and microphones installed.

Hertz officials say they are intended for video conferencing capability, but that they aren’t urrently being used for that purpose or for any other purpose. According to Hertz, it doesn’t even have the ability to turn them on. Why would Hertz invest in the technology and install it in its fleet of vehicles if it cannot even be used? Their official explanations make no sense.

What does make sense is that rental car companies and auto insurers would want to be able to spy on drivers. You know, to make sure they aren’t drinking, smoking, or allowing unauthorized persons to get behind the wheel. Things like that. It also makes sense that police, emergency responders, and federal agencies would want to have the ability to activate the cameras.

Hertz could have allayed privacy concerns while still making the cameras available for those drivers who (for whatever reason) want them. All it would have had to do is put the camera behind a plastic shutter that can be manually opened, but whose default position would be closed. It’s a low-tech, virtually costless solution.

Pushing Back Against High-Tech Intrusions

These days, however, purveyors of “smart” gadgetry are arrogant and aggressive. They don’t care that not everyone welcomes every new device intrusion. Their aim is to impose technology by default. And even mandate your use of it through government.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers was onto something when it opposed the government’s rule requiring rear-view cameras and screens by 2018. “Our customers have their own preferences among new technologies,” the organization stated. “It is one of our core beliefs that consumers should be in the driver’s seat when choosing which technologies they want to purchase.”

Fortunately, there is a simple way to prevent an unwanted vehicle camera from distracting you or threatening your privacy. You can take a piece of masking tape or Post-It note and stick it over the camera’s lens cover. Problem solved.

The challenge is being aware of where cameras may be placed. When you get into a rental car, inspect the navigation unit (if installed), rear-view mirror, dashboard, ceiling, and corner pillars to be sure that camera lenses aren’t pointed at you.

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