The California digital license plate is here. Earlier this year, Governor Gavin Newsom approved AB 984, updating Section 4463 of the Vehicle Code, which now permits California drivers to permanently use digital license plates.
With the implementation of this new bill, California joins states like Arizona, Michigan, and Texas in transitioning from conventional vehicle license plates and registration paraphernalia to digital alternatives. Specifically, this legislation mandates the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to maintain a program allowing for digital alternatives to the conventional stickers, tabs, license plates, and registration cards we’re accustomed to.
Admittedly, AB 984 presents opportunities as well as challenges. While the law undoubtedly seeks to enhance the efficacy of vehicle registration, it simultaneously opens the door to a myriad of legal disputes concerning privacy, employee rights, and misuse of tracking technologies.
This article explores these potential areas of contention, providing lawyers and other legal professionals with a glimpse into the landscape of potential disputes stemming from this new law.
In an age where digitization has invaded almost every facet of daily life, AB 984 introduces new territory for potential privacy conflicts. Chief among these concerns is the utilization of GPS tracking technologies.
While the law is explicit in its guidelines concerning the usage and prohibition of such tools, the very nature of digital tracking presents an array of potential violations.
From unauthorized location tracking to unforeseen data breaches, this section delves into the principle challenges that may arise as traditional vehicle registration collides with the digital era’s intricacies.
Assembly Bill 984 sets guidelines on how digital tracking should be employed. Nonetheless, the expansive nature of technology and its rapid evolution presents complexities that can sometimes outpace legislative foresight.
Understanding the various facets of unauthorized tracking is crucial, not just for legal compliance but also to ensure the protection of individual privacy rights.
Unauthorized tracking, as inferred from AB 984 and its underlying ethos, can be broadly characterized as any unwarranted or non-consensual use of vehicle location technology to monitor, locate, or surveil an individual or their vehicle. Within the framework of this legislation, tracking becomes unauthorized when:
Digitized tracking devices are always at risk for misuse, and the technologies envisioned by AB 984 are no exception. It’s not hard to conceive of numerous people and entities that might be motivated to engage in unauthorized tracking.
Most pressingly, some employers might be tempted to keep a closer eye on their employees beyond the stipulated work hours, even though the law mandates otherwise.
Moreover, as with any digital technology, there is a risk of hacking. Malicious entities might also seek to access location data for a variety of reasons, including theft, surveillance, or data selling.
The consequences of unauthorized tracking under AB 984 are framed to safeguard the privacy rights of individuals and to ensure that employers and third-party vendors act within the legal bounds when utilizing vehicle location technology. Based on the bill’s provisions, the repercussions for violations include:
Ultimately, the bill’s provisions are designed to provide a robust deterrent against any potential misuse of tracking technology while balancing the operational needs of businesses.
The introduction of a California digital license plate also presents a whole new potential for data breaches. As the law allows for the exchange of specific data between the DMV and these alternative devices, concerns have arisen about the safety of this data exchange, potential vulnerabilities, and the implications of unauthorized access.
As with any digital device, the alternative devices introduced by this legislation may have vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit (indeed, vulnerabilities were discovered almost as soon as the bill was signed into law). Firmware flaws, software bugs, or weak encryption methods could render the device susceptible to unauthorized access.
Moreover, the data exchanged between the DMV and these new devices might be intercepted during transmission, especially if not adequately encrypted or if transmitted over insecure networks.
Finally, the involvement of third-party vendors in providing GPS tracking or related services could introduce additional weak points.
These vendors might not always follow best security practices or may use systems that become points of entry for malicious wrongdoers.
AB 984 is particularly strict about the kind of data that can be shared between the DMV and the digitized license plate providers.
Specifically, the exchange is limited to data necessary for displaying evidence of registration compliance. The law explicitly states that the DMV shall not receive or retain any information regarding the movement, location, or use of a vehicle or person with an alternative device.
That said, the legislation does not provide explicit penalties tailored for data breaches. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that California has robust data protection and breach notification laws outside of AB 984.
Under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), for example, organizations that suffer data breaches can face significant penalties, be required to notify affected consumers, and may be exposed to civil litigation.
In the context of AB 984, any data breach would not only have legal implications but could also erode public trust in the use of such alternative devices, potentially impacting their broader adoption.
In the digital age, data has emerged as a valuable commodity. With the implementation of AB 984, there will be an influx of data generation related to vehicles and their usage.
While the primary intention of this data is to ensure compliance with vehicle registration requirements, the potential exists for secondary uses of this data. This, of course, raises privacy concerns and questions about the appropriateness and legality of such uses.
Anyone who has paid attention to the ads that pop up within their social media accounts knows that data concerning consumer habits is used relentlessly by anyone who can get their hands on it.
If companies learn to harness vehicle data to understand user behavior, driving patterns, or frequent locations, they might then use this information to target specific advertisements or offers to individuals.
Likewise, insurance companies might be interested in accessing data to analyze driving behaviors, frequented locations, or time spent driving to adjust insurance rates or offer tailored packages. This may or may not benefit consumers.
That said, driving data could also be used for the common good. For example, aggregated data from multiple vehicles could be used by municipalities or private firms to analyze traffic patterns, peak congestion times, or to inform infrastructure development projects. If any state needs additional technology to improve traffic, it’s certainly California.
Hopefully, any concerns about secondary data usage with any California digital license plate will be moot. The legislation is clear that the DMV cannot receive or retain data about vehicle movement, location, or use of an individual with an alternative device.
Laws concerning emerging technologies often have ambiguities or unanticipated scenarios that can lead to gray areas or disputes. AB 984 is no exception. Some potential gray areas that will undoubtedly lead to litigation include:
Without a doubt, the California digital license plate represents a forward-thinking approach to vehicular registration. As with many aspects of digitization, however, comes a plethora of privacy concerns and ambiguities.
The balance between convenience and privacy, the parameters around employee surveillance, and the potential for data breaches or misuse underscore the challenges of regulating emerging technologies.
As this law is applied in the coming years, it will be imperative for legal professionals to navigate its nuances carefully, ensuring both technological advancement and the protection of individual rights.
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