KSL INVESTIGATES

Utah’s tracking of electric vehicles raises privacy concerns for owners

Sep 28, 2021, 9:31 PM | Updated: 10:45 pm

BOUNTIFUL, Utah — Utah is tracking the movements of those who drive electric cars as it looks for a way to take in tax money.

More electric vehicles mean less gas tax revenue, but is that solution safe?

It has a Bountiful man worried about privacy and security, so he called the KSL Investigators to look into it.

Most of the money used to build and maintain our roads comes from the tax we pay with every gallon of gas we pump. But when electric vehicles hit the road, it created an issue.

Suddenly, you have thousands of cars that are using state roads but not paying for them. So, the Utah legislature came up with a solution, but it is one that has raised privacy concerns.

When Floyd McDermott bought his set of electric wheels, the state issued him a track that logs his car’s movements and then sends him a bill – one-and-a-half-cents for every mile driven.

“I was concerned about some privacy issues,” McDermott said about the device.

In addition to tracking his movements, the gizmo communicates with an app McDermott said he was instructed to download to his smart phone.

He worries a breach in the app’s security could leave his phone exposed.

“Can somebody, through a back door, get into my cell phone and find out what’s going on with me that I don’t want them to know?” McDermott asked.

“We have taken every measure possible to make sure that data protection is secure,” said Tiffany Pocock, program manager for the Utah Department of Transportation’s Road Usage Charge.

She said UDOT took great care to make sure the driving data collected by those trackers is secure.

“We partnered with some industry leaders that have been doing tolling and data security data privacy for a long time,” she explained.

In fact, Pocock said UDOT does not even have access to GPS data. It can only see how many miles are logged so they can send out bills.

As for the phone app, it is for the driver to see their mileage for themselves, but there is no need to download it.

“The device itself has a cell chip that’s talking right to the account manager,” said Pocock. “It’s not connected to your phone.”

But, perhaps most importantly, the state knew this program would not sit well with some people worried about privacy, and since data security can never be 100% guaranteed, lawmakers built in an out.

Rather than paying one-and-a half-cents per mile, a driver can choose not to install the tracker and instead pay a flat rate — $20, $52 or $120 per year, depending on the type of car.

“It’s a voluntary program,” affirmed Pocock.

Still, UDOT’s answers do not alleviate McDermott’s concerns. He told the KSL Investigators he will return the tracker and pay that flat rate.

“I’m going to pay the $52 and get out of the program,” he said. “I’m not even going to worry about it.”

For people who don’t put a lot of miles on their electric vehicles, going with the tracker chip will be cheaper than paying a flat rate. And, that flat rate is not set in stone. In fact, it has already gone up in 2020 and 2021.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

FILE: Back-to-school shopping (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Saving $ on back-to-school supplies with inflation

With inflation running amok this year, parents are tackling big price hikes on top of the stress. Fortunately, there are ways they can still save money.
2 days ago
...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

KSL Investigators help bank customer regain access to his money after fraud incident

KSL Investigators help a fraud victim gain access to his bank account after nearly a year of being locked out.
5 days ago
...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

What are the rules for airline travel credits?

After canceling a beach vacation to Hawaii, a Utah woman believes she has $1,400 in flight credits. Ongoing flight cancellations have plagued the summer travel season, and a lot of travelers are being made whole with flight credits rather than refunds.
6 days ago
FILE PHOTO - Shown are a smartphone and computer....
Matt Gephardt

Can a company pull the rebate runaround?

When a West Valley City woman took up Verizon on a rebate offer to upgrade but could not get the rebate, she contacted the KSL Investigators for help.
12 days ago
FILE PHOTO...
Daniella Rivera

KSL Investigates: How is Utah’s new self-defense law impacting justice?

Is a new Utah self-defense law improving our justice system or leading to unintended consequences? The KSL Investigators analyzed a full year of cases.
13 days ago
...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Utah home sellers drop asking prices as market slows from a frenzied pace

For years, Utah has been one of the nation's hottest real estate markets, but now it appears to be cooling as sellers are slashing prices.
13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
...
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...
AARP Utah

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Utah’s tracking of electric vehicles raises privacy concerns for owners