Police in Cleveland, Ohio, successfully apprehended a suspect involved in a car theft using OnStar technology earlier this week. The Cleveland Division of Police reported that this was not the first time they had utilized this method. The remote communications capabilities provided by OnStar prevented a potentially dangerous police pursuit. However, this incident raises concerns about the level of control law enforcement agencies have over modern vehicles.
The incident began when a woman called the police early Monday morning to report her stolen SUV. She informed the officers that she had activated her vehicle’s OnStar features. The Cleveland Police Division’s public information officer stated, “Upon receiving that information, the officers were able to communicate through OnStar, which helped us identify the locations of this vehicle. They are able to completely deactivate the car, slow it down almost to a stop to where officers can get to the location and arrest the individuals responsible for it.”
With the assistance of OnStar, the officers were able to locate the stolen SUV and bring it to a near standstill, allowing them to arrest the person behind the wheel. OnStar, introduced in 2008, has significantly advanced onboard vehicle systems. It serves as a vital tool for law enforcement but requires the cooperation of OnStar and the vehicle’s owner.
However, modern cars store a trove of unsecured data that can be accessed by law enforcement. Police can retrieve information such as when doors were opened, call and text logs from phones connected to the infotainment system, and other data. While this intelligence gathering method can prove crucial in investigations, it also raises concerns about unregulated access to private data.