General Motors is launching an OnStar feature that is designed to allow parents to track the activities of their children behind the wheel. Every teenager’s worst nightmare – and many a parent’s secret dream – the OnStar Family Link service keeps a log of where exactly a vehicle has been, with live location updates as well as a number of different points of access for busy parents.
OnStar Family Link includes several different tools to help keep tabs of teenage drivers from a distance. Mapping software, which is displayed via the Family Link website, can plot in real time where a vehicle is currently located, as well as display a history of where it has been driven. For parents who are concerned about where their children are at certain times of day – for example, after school, or when out late at night studying at a friend’s house – the Family Link service also has the ability to send email and text message updates at specific intervals that will inform adults where the car is currently traveling.
At launch, OnStar Family Link is restricted to 10,000 OnStar subscribers who have been sent invitations from the company to participate in the program. GM is considering adding additional features to Family Link, including the ability to create alerts should the vehicle exceed a certain pre-set speed or pass outside of a pre-determined boundary area. The latter is intended primarily to help parents keep their children out of parts of town that might be dangerous, such as certain highways or neighborhoods known to be prime locations of accidents. It may also be eventually possible for parents to add departure and arrival waypoints through the Family Link service in order to know when their teenage driver has actually made it safely to his or her destination.
The idea of parental surveillance over the actions of children is uncomfortable for some, but OnStar is not forcing anyone to sign up for this particular service. The trickier question becomes what happens if Family Link is abused? Theoretically, if the OnStar website was hacked, or if a third-party were to gain illicit access in order to track a vehicle that does not belong to them, then the movements of thousands of people could become public knowledge. In an age where protection of personal information has become more and more challenging in the online environment, General Motors would do well to ensure that they never have to deal with hordes of angry parents upset that the activities of their children – or spouses, or friends – have been leaked to the Web.