Monday, March 4, 2013

It's not actually communicating with the mother ship

Ever get a creepy email like this one?
Were they sure it was 31,448 miles?  Not 31,450?
When I first saw this, I had a "big brother is watching" type of Maalox moment, if you'll excuse the mixed metaphors, one of which dates me more severely than the other. 

Seriously, I thought it was one of those onboard car computer stunts that I keep reading about, such as in this piece provocatively titled "Your car as a witness for the prosecution", except instead of just recording details without my (or any other owner's) express permission, maybe the damned thing was now also transmitting that information to the dealer so that he could then justify sending me guilt-trippy emails about my (ex)laxity.

But a rising-dread dash to the garage revealed that my car doesn't actually have that many miles on it.  In fact, they must have recorded my mileage during previous service visits and simply extrapolated to arrive at that number, because the actual total is not even very close. 

They sure fufilled their purpose, though, didn't they?  They got my attention and got me off my butt with a privacy-invading flair.  As the retail giant Target recently found out the hard way by essentially announcing to a family that their teenage daughter was pregnant (oopsie!!), even if sales algorithms are sophisticated enough to glean remarkably personal information about a given customer, it's not always a good strategy to announce those results to either the target (pun intended) customer or to the world.
Where does the car stop and the computer begin?

Microsoft clip art. 

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