So, yeah, what is going on with Question One, the Right to Repair Law on the Massachusetts 2020 ballot?
I am sure by now you have almost had to hear an ad for question one. Either by Right to Repair represented by Tommy Hickey as well as the “No” side, represented by the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data. Data is a big question in this race, but fundamentally too, this law is about small and independent mechanics and shops having the most updated technology to adequately fix your cars and be able to compete with large chains.
The latest technology in question is telematics, or essentially any WIFI data flying through the air into the hands of the large automakers, Ford, GM, Honda, you know the rest. If your phone is a constant data collecting machine sending god knows what to any number of advertisers and large tech companies, so too is your car if it was made say within the past few years. So as you speed through the air in your brand new metal chariot, oodles and oodles of data is constantly flowing back to the manufacturers.
Within this data is mechanical data that provides near pinpoint accuracy on diagnosing what is wrong with your car. This is the data that is needed for small repair shops to fix your cars. So at the moment, it is as if large automakers are doing calculus on graphing calculators while the independent repair shops have to do calculus with only have a pen and paper (no slide-rule).
Or as Tommy Hickey from Right to Repair puts it, “It’d be like if me and you had to go look something up and I had to drive to my library, check out the books, come back, find in the books where it was, and then get back to you with an answer and you could just go on the internet and google it.”
It is also important to state that in 2013, that ballot question on the Right to Repair Law was the standard bearer for the nation. The 2020 Right to Repair Law will likely have the same consequences for the rest of the 50 states.
So, predictably, each side has thrown astronomical amounts of money into this race. (On August 24th alone, GM donated more than five million dollars to The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data.) And if the 2020 election cycle couldn’t get anymore cryptic than it already is, which is really saying something, we have the added bonus of watching major car companies let us know exactly how stupid they think we are with the added bonus of too, too much of a cops gullet.
How about those commercials huh?
Let’s start with the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data’s side of things. So to respond to this commercial by the group wherein Ron Santos, who was totally not paid to say this, states “It’s really about big repair chains getting access to your data that can be sold to advertisers.”
Aside from this claim, in a separate commercial that totally doesn’t victimize women, a cryptic female voice-over states that “anyone can access [your] most personal data”
But here is the thing, auto-manufacturers already sell your data to third party advertisers. Further, the data that hackers may want would have the same firewall protections that large auto-makers currently have. And large car manufacturers have never been hacked before, right?
So the same apocalyptic ‘future’ they are attempting to portray in these commercials is actually the present wherein they are the people selling your data as well as putting your personal safety at risk through want of profit and general negligence. Ah, aren’t corporate monopolies grand?
To prove my point here, I asked Conor Yunits who represents The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data about this issue. “Not to throw this question back on you, but couldn’t the car manufacturers that represent your organization do the very same thing [sell data to third parties]?”
And Conor responded with, “Well theoretically sure. Right? But there are different things in play here. Number one, those businesses are in the business of selling cars to their customers, right? They are not in the business of selling information, they want the information so they can make a better car so you keep coming back and buying cars…”
Now at this point, am I voting yes? Yes and I encourage you do the same. I am generally confident as a whole that this ballot question will be akin to the 2012 vote, which won, taking an astonishing 86% of the vote.
With that being said, I’ve got a bone to pick with the Right to Repair side, and their commercials as well.
The first ad I saw from them, my gut instinct, having seen a good deal of repair shops in my day, was that repair shops don’t look like that. They just don’t. Give me some grease, a big old bald spot, and a good gut and butt scratch to boot.
And the one with the cop. A cop really? Is there anyone else Right to Repair could have gotten to convince people (and send me as their only source)? I have asked around and did some research, but it is not every day you meet someone who specializes in dang automotive law.
Anyways, you really don’t need to be a cyber security expert to figure this one out.
It is worth adding that these commercials (particularly the accents) are a great study of inhabitants of the Commonwealth and I imagine would actually be quite funny to folks outside of Massachusetts whose PTSD response isn’t set off while hearing a Massachusetts accent.
Vote yes and ride your bikes Folks!
Chris Hues is a human & writer from Boston, Ma & Associate Editor of bostonhassle.com. //// They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @crsjh_ via instagram & twitter.