Our cars don’t just take us from point A to point B anymore. They now play our favorite Spotify playlists, read us our text messages, and make phone calls. They may collect audio and video inside and outside a car as well as GPS-coordinates. They may one day even scan passengers’ eyes and purportedly determine their restaurant preferences by assessing our emails’ “emotional tone.”
Modern cars are essentially roving computers, recording and storing unprecedented types and quantities of data about our personal lives — from cellphone contacts and music preferences to detailed location history and granular data about the operation of the car itself. The growing amount of personal information they collect and store raises a number of important privacy questions, including what Fourth Amendment protections we can expect against unjustified access by law enforcement.
The question has already come up in a case, Mobley v. State, before the Georgia Supreme Court, where we argue in an amicus brief that cops cannot conduct warrantless searches of computers — even if that computer happens to be on wheels. The brief was filed with the ACLU of Georgia and Riana Pfefferkorn at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society.