If you use your credit card at the supermarket, the bank may know a lot more about you than you think. The same credit card will tell the bank a lot about your gasoline purchases, too. No one has figured out who owns the information, but marketers are very interested in getting their hands on it.
Meanwhile, automakers quietly have started adding what amount to black boxes to their automobiles - sort of cheap, simplified versions of the black boxes found in commercial airliners.
But the public doesn't know about those black boxes, and I haven't noticed anything about them in the owner's manual.
In the last few seconds of an automobile's operation before a crash, they record data such as speed, direction and whether there was braking.
It's a lawyer's dream. After an accident, one side or the other would be interested in the data, which could be invaluable at a trial.
It would make sense for the automobile manufacturers to let customers and dealers know about those recording devices. Otherwise, the black boxes are likely to show up on some TV exposé.
And if that's not enough, some sharp-thinking fellow - in law enforcement, we hope - may have realized that OnStar would be a wonderful device not only to track the bad guys but to eavesdrop on their conversations as well.
The OnStar people are reluctant to discuss it, but my guess is that unless someone gets a court order, OnStar wouldn't tolerate it. But that doesn't mean that some court hasn't already allowed it or won't do so in the future.
Automobiles will have even more involuntary electronics that enable the vehicles to transmit data, and some people will see that as an opportunity for intrusion.
The potential for mischief abounds in new cars.
It will be in the best interests of automakers to make full disclosure and let their customers know what can and can't be done. There may be options that owners would like but don't know are available today.
The potential for massive bad publicity is staggering.