US agency seeks car location tracking details over domestic abuse concerns

By Dan Levine and Kristina Cooke

(Reuters) – The chairwoman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Thursday wrote to nine large automakers, including Elon Musk’s Tesla, seeking more information about their policies involving internet-connected car technology and domestic abuse.

Cases of technology-enabled stalking involving cars are emerging as automakers add ever-more sophisticated features, such as location tracking and remote control of functions like locking doors or honking the horn.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Thursday told Musk and the other CEOs that the federal agency is responsible for helping domestic abuse survivors with secure access to communications. Like a smartphone, she wrote, “having access to a car is a critical lifeline.”

“No survivor of domestic violence and abuse should have to choose between giving up their car and allowing themselves to be stalked and harmed by those who can access its data and connectivity,” she wrote.

Musk and Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Rosenworcel wrote a similar message to three wireless carriers, including AT&T, which declined to comment.

Reuters last month reported on a woman who unsuccessfully sued Tesla. She alleged the company negligently failed to help her after repeatedly complaining that her husband was stalking her with the automaker’s technology.

She would return to the car to find the doors open, the suspension settings changed, and the vehicle’s ability to charge turned off.

The story also cited reports from other victims. Later, the New York Times reported on the same subject.

The FCC chairwoman requested information about policies to remove access to connected apps from individuals listed on the vehicle’s title, among other requests. She set a deadline of Jan. 26.

(Reporting by Dan Levine and Kristina Cooke; Editing by Jamie Freed)