A recent Computerworld blog post shows how tone deaf we can be about the implications of new technology. A group of car dealers in Oregon apparently attached GPS devices to cars sold to customers with poor credit so as to be able to track them down more easily in the event of repossession.
I agree with the author, a senior editor for Computerworld, that there are (horrendous) privacy problems with tracking customers without notice. But this practice also relates to an emerging phenomenon wherein sold property remains oddly connected to the seller as though it were merely leased. Whereas once we purchased an album and did with it as we please, today we need to register (up to five) devices in order to play our songs. Whereas once we purchased software outright, now we depend on periodic vendor updates in order to retain basic functionality. (See John's discussion of "software as service" in The Future of the Internet and How To Stop It.)
Notice that although the blogger faults certain dealers for failing to inform customers of the device, no critique is offered of the notion that the dealers should retain a “location” interest in the vehicle after it has been lawfully sold to the consumer. Rather, the author says of this practice that it “sounds like a reasonable thing for the car dealers to do,” and later that dealers may have a “very good business rationale” for the practice. I disagree with this position. Once you sell me a car, it's mine, until the law provides otherwise.
(Thanks to Beth Givens for passing along the story and to Robert Kraft for the image.)