One of the major car rental services has admitted to having cameras installed in about one in eight of its cars in the United States. These cameras are built into Hertz' NeverLost dashboard assistant that offers routing help and local city guides. These cameras were launched in 2014 and it has been out for a while now but the story has only gotten traction recently since people began realizing that a camera was pointing at them. For those of you that have rented from Hertz recently, fear not of your privacy, NeverLost 6 was never activated. Hertz claimed they lacked the bandwidth to use the cameras and with the recent media frenzy over spying accusations, they probably will be the last car rental service to spy on their customers. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't companies that do.
Most rental cars have GPS and navigation systems equipped onboard. And with technology nowadays, they can be used against renters. There have been many stories about renters being fined hundreds, even thousands of dollars for violating their contracts. There have been numerous reports of Florida car rental companies being notorious for literally shutting down engines of cars that cross state lines, and they won't restart until the renter has paid a fine. Is this legal? Only if it has been disclosed directly to the consumers face. Nowadays fine print buried under pages of contracts may not be good enough for many courts. Scared for your privacy? Don't be. It doesn't really mean that the car rental companies really know every location you have been to. The tracking devices are programmed to send alerts once the conditions have been met, such as crossing state lines or an international border. It is less about where the customer is going, and more about where they are not allowed to go.
Larger companies have vehemently denied using cameras or tracking devices to spy on their customers. Enterprise Rent-a-car, the largest car rental service in the US, claims they have OnStar technology in some of their GM vehicles and they are not allowed to access the technology without an official police report (to document that a vehicle is lost or missing). However, small and independent companies are more than likely to track their drivers. Damages and stolen cars may cut into revenue for large companies, but one stolen car may be catastrophic financially for a smaller company. Small companies are also concerned about vehicle abuse such as off-roading or significant speeding. Built-in monitoring may provide an early warning system to their asset and they may be able to cut their losses. Make sure you always ask if there are any tracking device when you are renting, small or large company.