‘My friend who bought a Nissan Leaf (pictured) disconnected the modem so his car would not track him,’ writes Dr Richard Stallman. Photograph: Simon Stuart-Miller
In response to Dr Robin Shipp’s letter about the unfair requirements for charging electric cars (3 December), I’d like to point out one more: that you can’t pay cash for a charge. Whether you pay with a smartphone (that tracks you whenever it is operating), or with a proposed swipecard (that would track you whenever you use it), it does you wrong by tracking your movements. You can fill your car with gasoline anonymously, paying cash; electric cars should offer the same.
The Nissan Leaf violates privacy in another way: it contains a cellphone data modem that transmits when the car runs. Aside from the data it may send (without asking your permission), merely informing the telephone network where you are violates your privacy. My friend who bought a Nissan Leaf disconnected the modem so his car would not track him.
The proposed London “tube for cars” raises a similar issue: if it requires users to identify themselves, it will be an injustice.
Due to various digital technologies, we now face far more surveillance than the inhabitants of the former Soviet Union. For democracy’s sake, we must insist that each new system be designed so as not to accumulate personal data, except about court-designated targets. We must fix the systems which do so; first step, don’t allow any new ones.
Dr Richard Stallman
President, Free Software Foundation