Skip links

Tech Gives Lenders Power Over Customers

News. A woman needs to drive her son to the hospital fast, as he has a alarmingly high fever, but her car won’t start. Another woman is driving on the highway and suddenly her car was turned off sending her careening across a three-lane highway. In both cases the cars had no technical problems. In both cases the cars were switched off remotely by the lenders of the car loans. The women were behind their monthly car payment, and the lenders therefore activated the cars’ ‘kill switches’.

The two stories were described in a New York Times article in 2014. Since then then trend has only grown. Lenders get more and more power over their customers, especially less ressourceful customers. The Atlantic describes the prevalent trend in credit transaction with remote control of devices by lenders, that infringes on the privacy and security of the debtors.

This-remote-control-trend is happening, because we rent more and owe less. We rent music, movies, coffee pods, self-cleaning cat litter boxes, e-books, software and so on. The people we rent from want  access controls to ensure that the possessions we lease or rent don’t suddenly belong to us.

Then, when it comes to the enforcement of debt, the debtor’s dignity is of first priority. Whether through repeated collection calls, or through a GPS tracking system, the creditor intrudes into the debtor’s private sphere

The trends is all over the US. In Europe it is less described. Many cars in Europe have a black box installed to let insurance companies track their driving in case of an accident. Thus a kill switch could be installed. However, privacy laws in Europe are much stricter than in the US. This does not prevent the state from dreaming of a kill switch. In 2014 papers were leaked showing that the EU was considering equipping all cars sold in the union with devices which would allow the police to remotely disable engines. But it was never realized. Not a word has been leaked on that since.