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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Tosses Auto Hacking Class Action

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed with leave to amend a class action claiming Ford, Toyota and General Motors made their cars vulnerable to hackers.

Lead plaintiff Helen Cahen sued the three automakers in March, claiming they knew for years that hackers could remotely control cars with drivers behind the wheel but did nothing to protect consumers.

U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick found the plaintiffs failed to adequately state an injury resulting from the hacking vulnerabilities and therefore lacked standing to sue.

Orrick also found claims that the automakers violated drivers' privacy rights by collecting and sharing vehicle location data with third parties were insufficiently pleaded.

Although the plaintiffs say they would not have purchased the vehicles or paid as much for them had they known about the hacking vulnerabilities, Orrick said those claims rely "solely upon a speculative risk of future harm."

Orrick pointed out that federal regulations require all vehicles made after 2008 be equipped with some form of a control area network, or CAN bus protocol, which can make cars susceptible to hacking.

"This means that potentially all post-2008 vehicles on the American market, and not just defendants' vehicles, lack the allegedly necessary security protections and firewalls," Orrick said.

During a Nov. 11 hearing on the motion to dismiss, class attorney Marc Stanley argued that just because cars are required to have CAN bus networks doesn't mean the automakers can't install firewalls to protect drivers.

Turning to privacy claims, Orrick found the plaintiffs did not allege a credible risk, like identity theft, that would establish an injury resulting from the automakers' collection of data.

"As pleaded, defendants' tracking of a vehicle's driving history, performance, or location 'at various times,' is not categorically the type of sensitive and confidential information the Constitution aims to protect," Orrick wrote.

The judge also found the plaintiffs lacked jurisdiction to sue Ford because California cannot be considered the company's "surrogate place of incorporation or temporary place of business."

Orrick granted the three automakers' motion to dismiss, but gave the plaintiffs until Jan. 8 to file an amended complaint.

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