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Crime Privacy Transportation

Dealer-Installed GPS Tracker Leads To Kidnapper's Arrest in Maryland 271

New submitter FarnsworthG writes A news story about the capture of a kidnapper mentioned that he was caught because a car dealer had secretly installed a GPS device on his car. Apparently this is becoming common for "buy-here-pay-here" dealers. The devices are sold by Spireon, among many others. Raises interesting privacy questions. FarnsworthG also points to this Jalopnik article condemning the practice, when it's done without disclosure. The kidnapping itself, of Philadelphia nursing assistant Carlesha Freeland-Gaither, was captured by a surveillance camera.
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Dealer-Installed GPS Tracker Leads To Kidnapper's Arrest in Maryland

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  • by Fwipp ( 1473271 ) on Friday November 07, 2014 @11:52PM (#48338831)

    McDougall said the customer is required to sign a form acknowledging there's a GPS unit in their vehicle. If the car buyer tries to remove it, the dealer is alerted.

    I think this is a pretty shady practice, don't get me wrong, but it's not quite as "secretly" as the summary made it out to be.

    • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @12:00AM (#48338847)

      Disclosure takes it out of the shade IMHO.

    • by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @01:19AM (#48339067)
      The dealers do it because they are selling cars to people who often don't pay their bills, take off cross-state with vehicles, and such. Your normal dealership doesn't do this...
      • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @01:23AM (#48339079)

        They will eventually, when the state and insurance companies mandate the trackers.

        • That will be right after the state mandates an implanted chip for all people. (Also known as "It will never happen". Take off your tinfoil hat)

        • They will eventually, when the state and insurance companies mandate the trackers.

          No need to mandate, telematics is already here. Ford: We can use GPS to track your car movements [cnbc.com].

          If your vehicle has GPS and a cell modem (i.e. a nav system with apps, services, etc) then you have to assume the manufacturer is already doing this type of tracking. Ford's CEO just pulled a Biden here and admitted publicly what they're all doing. I know my non-Ford vehicle has a telematics unit and is probably reporting all my speed and location data to the manufacturer (including when I exceed the speed limit

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by davester666 ( 731373 )

        These dealers do it, because they are in the vehicle rental business, which is WAY more profitable than the vehicle sales business. Because they "sell" the car to someone they know is most likely not going to be able to make the payments, and they can repossess the car and keep all the so-called "equity" that the purchaser has built up, and just sell it again to the next one up. Lather Rinse Repeat.

      • by Monoman ( 8745 )

        "Buy here, pay here" are for high risk customers usually. I wouldn't be surprised if the repo rate is significantly higher and if multiple sales of the same vehicle are part of the business model. I also wouldn't be surprised if their financing terms are a "Lease to buy" type thing just to keep ownership of the vehicle in their hands as much as possible.

    • the headline should be "Dealer-Installed GPS Tracker Leads To Kidnapper's Arrest, Car Repossession in Maryland"

    • I think this is a pretty shady practice, don't get me wrong, but it's not quite as "secretly" as the summary made it out to be.

      Why is it shady? The dealer is agreeing to loan you money and trust you with the collateral, on the basis that you accept this device be installed and remain functioning.

      They only bother with it for risky borrowers ... in other words, without it, he'd have a much higher interest rate or else not be able to buy the car at all. In which case Al Sharpton would show up with a bullhorn ....

    • If the car buyer tries to remove it, the dealer is alerted.

      How would the dealer know? Hire a car for a day and transfer it to that. Keep it running on a battery during the transfer.

    • I think this is a pretty shady practice, don't get me wrong, but it's not quite as "secretly" as the summary made it out to be.

      It depends on whether it is, "Here is the GPS consent form, saying we will track you til you pay the care off" or "Here, sign this 82 pages of forms and you can drive off now" where people miss clause 18.f.ii

      Now, people should read what they sign. But the way people react when I read waivers, etc, you'd think I'm the only one.

  • Summary is hogwash (Score:5, Informative)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Friday November 07, 2014 @11:56PM (#48338837)

    In the article is the statement:

    "McDougall said the customer is required to sign a form acknowledging there's a GPS unit in their vehicle. If the car buyer tries to remove it, the dealer is alerted."

    Thus it seems likely maybe the perp was informed about the tracking device.

    Now the task is to find a hole deep and dark enough for this vile predator.

    • Ooh! Ooh! I'm a grand juror in that federal district. Maybe I'll get to hear the testimony and vote whether to indict.
      • I've never gotten any of the good ones. I've been picked for juries twice (once a grand jury) and it's always been boring slam-dunk cases. A civil suit and an embezzler.

    • In the article is the statement:

      "McDougall said the customer is required to sign a form acknowledging there's a GPS unit in their vehicle. If the car buyer tries to remove it, the dealer is alerted."

      Thus it seems likely maybe the perp was informed about the tracking device.

      It depends on how prominent the disclosure was. Was it in 8 point font in the middle of paragraph 37 on page 7 of the 12 pages the buyer had to sign? Or was it in 14 point font on its own form that dealt with nothing but the presence of a tracking device? Unfortunately saying the buyer signed an "acknowledgement" doesn't prove the device's presence was known, and courts interpret these things in how a "reasonable" person would find it. Also, the way that was written could mean the device's installation

    • Looking at the Article, I see that with "Imports City" the customer is required to sign a form acknowledging there's a GPS unit in their vehicle. The article does *not* say that he got his car from them, or even any other dealership in Raleigh NC although that is implied. He kidnapped a random person and drove her to a hideout two hours away? Sheesh.

  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by island_earth ( 468577 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @12:00AM (#48338845)

    And if we allowed the police to search our homes, cars, and persons on a daily basis, a whole lot more criminals would be caught. I'm glad a scumbag was caught before something worse happened, but let's not pretend that one positive outcome justifies personal tracking, stops-and-frisks, and other countless increases in violations of unreasonable search and seizure in our society.

    • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @12:10AM (#48338873)

      I'm a big 4th Amendment guy but I find it hard to see where anything the police did here can be criticized.

      Surely any judge would issue a warrant in a millisecond after seeing that horrific video.

      • Surely any judge would issue a warrant in a millisecond after seeing that horrific video

        Scary thing you said one: The video should no bearing on the issuance of a warrant. As a rule, warrants should be issued on how reasonable a search it is, and likely to turn up evidence. Not, how horrifying the crime is.

        Scary thing you said two: You think a warrant would be necessary. The data is not the suspects, but the car company's. And the car company has no rights to privacy vis-a-vis that data to protect. S

        • Scary thing you said one: The video should no bearing on the issuance of a warrant. As a rule, warrants should be issued on how reasonable a search it is, and likely to turn up evidence. Not, how horrifying the crime is.

          Oh, I don't know. The seriousness of the potential crime -- for which the police have genuine probable cause to suspect has occurred -- probably should have some bearing on the warrant that is issued. There is a balancing of interests here, which you actually have buried in your own comment. "How reasonable", in your words, likely includes "how horrifying" as one of its elements--you just saw an opportunity to try to score a cheap rhetorical point.

          Unless, of course, you believe that a judge should awar

    • the dangers of the police state pale in comparison to what 40 years of declining wages and eroding worker's rights have done. When it comes right down to it money is freedom. The rich don't worry about stop and frisk....
      • Without freedom, we are nothing, even if we had money. I don't care how 'prosperous' a certain country is; if it's not free, then it's worthless to me.

        • So the early 19th-century Cherokee, with absolutely no government to restrict any of their freedoms, were better off then the Georgians?

          If you don't accept that some restrictions on your freedom are necessary for your government to function you;ll end up in the same situation they did: completely at the mercy of another government that does restrict some freedoms. It's a very tricky balance.

          • So the early 19th-century Cherokee, with absolutely no government to restrict any of their freedoms, were better off then the Georgians?

            Wow, nice straw man. Consider the context of the discussion.

            It's a very tricky balance.

            Here's a "balance" for you: The government should follow the constitution. The end.

            • In case it's not obvious, I was saying that a country with a bad economy but a great amount of freedom is better than a country with a good economy but with few freedoms. I'm not sure how you interpreted that as supporting anarchy, or whatever.

            • So the early 19th-century Cherokee, with absolutely no government to restrict any of their freedoms, were better off then the Georgians?

              Wow, nice straw man. Consider the context of the discussion.

              You said "Without freedom, we are nothing, even if we had money. I don't care how 'prosperous' a certain country is; if it's not free, then it's worthless to me."

              That's not the kind of thing you say if you're gonna agree to any restriction on freedom.

              If you were unclear that's one thing, but the following sentence actually does not clarify things very much:

              It's a very tricky balance.

              Here's a "balance" for you: The government should follow the constitution. The end.

              Great idea in theory.

              In practice nobody agrees on what the damn thing means. Seriously, a very large proportion of the US population is absolutely convin

              • That's not the kind of thing you say if you're gonna agree to any restriction on freedom.

                No, that's just normal human language, where you don't necessarily qualify everything you say, because it's not necessary.

                In practice nobody agrees on what the damn thing means.

                In practice, it's mostly just people ignoring what it says/what it intended for convenience. Example: Authoritarians ignoring the spirit of the fourth amendment (among other things) so they can have their mass surveillance.

                It's not really a problem, because they're just as wrong as if they said that 1 + 1 = 3.

      • the dangers of the police state pale in comparison to what 40 years of declining wages and eroding worker's rights have done.

        I tend to think of those two as going hand in hand. Declining wages and shrinking workers rights have led to less empowered and less engaged citizens. That let's government get away with creating a police state.

        It's actually been more like 35 years of declining wages. I trace it back to the election of the 40th president. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-and-May-He-Suffer-In-Hell. Even i

    • If you want the rights of ownership, buy the freaking car or have a non-"dog-shit" credit score and be able to get a loan from a bank.

      This guy DID NOT own the car.

      He was making payments on it with a "Buy Here, Pay Here" lender --- these people finance high risk loans no one else will do and have restrictive terms as a result.

      There was so offense against anyone's rights here.

      He had horrific credit so had to do "Buy Here, Pay Here" --- which is better than "having to hoof it".

      If you want full property
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      There is also the little fact that this type of success must be exceedingly rare, otherwise it would not have made the news.

    • by Guppy06 ( 410832 )

      What does any of that have to do with the story here? The tracking device wasn't added by the police or even at the behest of the police, but by the buy-here-pay-here dealer, operating a business of the same respectability as payday lending and rent-to-own stores, who expect their customers to default. This wasn't done for cops but for repo men.

      By all means complain about a violation of privacy, but it isn't by the state. Rather this is the result of a financial system that promotes, aggravates, and prof

    • Here's a typical disclosure [afsacceptance.com] that a GPS will be installed in the car. Not exactly fine print or any trickery involved. Police had plenty of reason to suspect the driver of that car had committed a serious crime.
  • by ad454 ( 325846 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @12:48AM (#48338973)

    Just think of all of the crimes we can prevent or solve, if we place the entire American population in prison camps, with 24/7 monitoring, restricted movement, restricted access to information, and public displays of punitive punishment.

    Why is this not being done? Won't someone please think of the children?

    North Korea has show the world the way to the future, with our increasing plutocratic societies in the west with decreasing human rights.

    • The GOP will not want to pay for that as they will have to have higher taxes.

    • Well our prisons have plenty of crime inside the walls and maximum security and other measures have not stopped crime in prisons.
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @01:51AM (#48339123)

    That does not make it a good idea. That this makes the news just shows how exceedingly rare such a "success" is. With sane laws, a practice like this would send the dealer to prison for a few years.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Having been acquainted with someone that has in their possession a vehicle that has been in-default for the better part of a decade, squirreled away in a backyard now after it spent considerable time in a relative's garage so to not be in plain view while the repo company was still looking for it, I'm not really so against this for high-risk buyers.
  • For those of us who don't know, or those of us who aren't in the states if this is a USA thing, what's a "buy-here-pay-here" dealer?
    How is it different from any other dealer?

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      For those of us who don't know, or those of us who aren't in the states if this is a USA thing, what's a "buy-here-pay-here" dealer?
      How is it different from any other dealer?

      They specialize in selling cars to people who can't really afford them. Their customers are considered high risk and can't get credit elsewhere, so they charge high interest rates. When said people fall behind on their payments, they repossess the cars and sell them again to someone else. It's not uncommon for a dealer to sell the same used car 5 or 6 times. It's a fairly dodgy business model [latimes.com].

  • People are stupid. (Score:5, Informative)

    by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @02:49AM (#48339285)

    The suspect knew the vehicle was being tracked as he signed a document stating that fact. He just forgot that fact when he kidnapped someone.

    I used to work for a company that tracked vehicle fleets. Every driver knew his truck was tracked yet a driver was convicted of murder when his truck was logged near the site where the ex-girlfriend was last seen and near where her body was found. Another vehicle, different client, was noticed stopped far from it's route in a bad neighborhood. The police were sent and the driver was found selling product out of the back of the vehicle.

    People are stupid.

    PS. I have no problem with installing the tracker with the knowledge of the purchaser.

  • If I remember it right, it was the desire to find the secret tracking device that made Anakin get into hardware, and then on to pod racing. Granted, it was a kind of dumb to build a protocol droid to find a tracker, but kids are kind of dumb that way.

    But the point is, I see a whole generation of potential Sith Lords emerging, all getting their crack in hardware by building a scanner to find the tracker installed by the Jabba-the-Car-hut dealerships.

  • The media conveniently leaves certain things out of its reports. The use of these tracking devices are disclosed in the terms and conditions that people sign without reading. Honestly, this a good use of technology to give people who have fallen on hard times, access to a car. Should we pass a law simply because people will sign a document without reading it?
  • It is a common technique among used car dealers who are selling to someone with bad or poor credit. It is intended to aid in recovery and repossession. The purchaser is aware it is installed. And, it is removed when the vehicle is paid off.

    The device our company made and sold ( when I worked for them) could be activated with a court order. Activation was not in the hands of the car dealership because of the privacy implications.

  • You license them until the vendor decides you don't anymore.

  • by bobjr94 ( 1120555 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @03:37PM (#48341621) Homepage
    How they work is the are hidden under the dash, usually with a Y cable running off the OBD2 port just for the power feed. Just plug and play, about a 5 minute install. The devices cost around $100. For a bit more you can get one with a battery back-up, so if the car is left abandoned, it will signal the dealer the vehicle battery is now dead and here is the location. usually once a day (often 23 hours apart) they send their location, so after a few weeks you know the car's typical location day and night.

    Many times the customer is not told at all. It's still a grey area if this is legal since the car is property of the dealer. Once the car is paid off the device (and monthly service charge) is disabled. If the customer is told, it's not made clear what the device is used for. There will be a line in the sales contract saying - your vehicle may include an anti-theft device - That's all. What's not said is the anti-theft device only benefits the dealer, and will be used so the repoman can come pick up your car.

    In the dealer defense, buy here - pay here customers are the bottom of the credit barrel and no big name dealer would touch them. They will have 1 or more repossessions, maybe 5 or more accounts in collections, a bunch more of charged off accounts they just gave up on and maybe an eviction from their last apartment. So the dealer knows they don't like to pay for things they buy. There is only about a 50% chance they will actually pay off the car they are buying.

One way to make your old car run better is to look up the price of a new model.

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