Renting a Sports Car on Turo May Be a Privacy Nightmare, You Might Be on TikTok

Screenshot of GPS activity of Turo renter posted on TikTok by Turo hosts 33 photos
Photo: Screenshot from Twitter video posted by Whitney Merrill, originally made by TikTok users @drivethemeraldcoast, but since deleted
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This week, another scandal broke out on the internet, and it started on TikTok but ended up on Twitter. It all started with a Florida couple who has a 2013 Porsche Boxster that they rent out on Turo. The pair went viral after they showed the people of TikTok that their renter had driven their Boxster rather hard, and they have displayed what appears to be genuine GPS data in their video.
The two Floridians were not at their first rental, but their second with the 2013 Porsche Boxster, and they decided to take a closer look at their vehicle's OBDII-linked GPS tracker.

As it turned out, they were using Bouncie, which is a tracker meant for consumers, but the real issue is the fact that they did not respect the privacy of their renter.

The couple was notified by the Bouncie app that the vehicle had been driven at a top speed of 108 mph (ca. 174 kph) and that it was experiencing moments of hard braking and hard acceleration.

Using the OBDII-port, the tracker “knows” how hard the throttle is mashed, and the same goes for the brake pedal. With GPS data, whoever monitors the vehicle will see where it was when it was speeding and how fast it was going.

Bouncie GPS
Photo: Bouncie website
As several privacy advocates had noted on Twitter, monitoring someone who is driving your vehicle that you rented out to them is spying, but making TikToks about the whole thing while disclosing their route is “a whole new level,” as a Twitter user named Eva noted. The videos were deleted, but the internet has a way of storing these things.

While Turo's ToS does not forbid installing GPS trackers and even recommends that as a means to prevent theft and other unfortunate scenarios, it does not mean that the people who rent you a car on the service should monitor your every move. Moreover, if they do, it would not be a wise move to share that they did, as well as your route information, on TikTok.

In the EU, if they did something like this without written agreement from their renter, they could get in a world of trouble, as doing so would mean that they mishandled someone else's personal data. The latter data includes where that person was at a certain time, even if they do not disclose the name of the renter or their picture.

Doing either would make the offense even worse in the eyes of the law, at least in Europe. In the U.S., though, you might need a lawyer to figure out what to do in the situation.

MOTOsafety GPS
Photo: MotoSafety website
With the discussion opened, it is fair to understand that many rental vehicles, if not all (with a few exceptions), come with GPS trackers. This is not a secret, and it should not be a secret to anyone.

Unlike this Florida couple, the operators of those fleets do not end up public-shaming their renters on TikTok, but some situations can be mentioned if the data is not fresh and no genuine personal information is disclosed, as Rob Ferretti does.

The moral of this story, folks, is that a rented vehicle probably has a tracking device of some sort installed and that you should stick to the speed limit or with the rental agreement (if it is a track rental) while driving it.

To be safe from a privacy standpoint, assume that you are being watched while being in that vehicle, so do not do anything that you would not do in public, or do not say or show anything that is not meant for someone else's eyes – there are vehicles that have built-in or concealed cameras, and the latter can be wired to record and store videos.

Spytec GPS
Photo: Spytec website
Also, just because you are driving someone else's car doesn't mean that you cannot be pulled over for speeding or getting in trouble afterward. Always read the full contract of your rental agreement. In this case, the hosts were breaching said contract because they did not inform the guest of the tracker. Press cars are similarly tracked, and speeding in them is often noticed by fleet managers, in case you were wondering.

It should go without writing, but it helps if you show some respect and refrain from using both the brakes and the gas pedal as on/off switches, which probably triggered the OBDII-linked GPS tracker in the first place. A spirited drive (especially with permission) would have not have “made the news,” if you ask for our opinion.

Since the post went viral, Turo had stated for Vice that the two hosts were asked to disclose to their guests (who we called renters – but you get the point) that the vehicles come with telematics devices.

The Turo representative has also mentioned that the company is discussing with the hosts about the intended purpose of their devices or systems. In other words, the people of Turo were not happy with the whole thing, either.

If you are considering renting out your vehicle to people you do not know, do not be surprised to learn that they drove it “like a rental,” as the expression goes.

Yes, it is sad that people have no problem going flat out in your vehicle, hitting the brakes hard, speeding, and so on, but it is no surprise that some people have no respect for other people's property. Think (and prepare) for the worst whenever you offer something you own to someone else because that is how the world works.

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Editor's note: For illustration purposes, the photo gallery shows images of GPS-enabled OBDII dongles, as well as images that show rental cars and other vehicles.

About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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