FCC considers steps to prevent domestic abusers from tracking victims through cars


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering taking steps to prevent domestic abusers from using smart car services to track, harass and intimidate their partners.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel proposed Wednesday that the agency look at using existing law, specifically the Safe Connections Act, to ensure car manufacturers and wireless service providers are protecting domestic abuse survivors from misuse of car connectivity tools.

“A car is a critical lifeline that can give survivors a way to escape their abusers, gain independence, and seek support,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “Survivors of domestic abuse shouldn’t have to choose between giving up their vehicle and feeling safe.” 

“We must ensure car manufacturers and wireless carriers understand the full impact of the connectivity tools in new vehicles and how these applications can be used to stalk, harass, and intimidate,” she added.

The Safe Connections Act, which the FCC is charged with implementing, established requirements to ensure domestic abuse survivors have access to secure communications, including mandating that providers separate phone lines from family plans linked to abusers.

Rosenworcel’s proposal, which still needs to be adopted by the full commission, would seek comment about smart car services and whether the FCC should make changes to how it implements the Safe Connections Act to address concerns about these tools.

Last month, the agency sent letters to nine car companies and three wireless service providers asking for more information about how connected car tools can be misused by domestic abusers.

The letters came on the heels of a New York Times report that detailed how abusers have used internet-connected apps in cars to stalk and harass their victims.

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