Couple Who Rents Cars Brags About Tracking Customers on TikTok

Privacy activists are decrying a couple who use TikTok to show how they track people who rented their cars on the car-sharing app Turo.
porsche
Image: Turo

A couple who rents out cars in Florida has a TikTok account where they show how they track their customers and comment on their driving style, irking privacy experts.

One video, where the couple tracks the movements of a customer who rented a Porsche and laments how fast they are driving, garnered more than 300,000 views on the platform.

“Our Porsche is out on its second trip, it’s gotten booked back to back, which we are really excited about but we are not so excited about getting notifications at…” one of the hosts, Kyle, said in the video.

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“All hours of the night,” the other host, John, added.

“...of our guests racing up and down the scenic highway in Pensacola. If you can see those little stop lights, that's every time they do rapid acceleration and the exclamation points are hard braking,” Kyle then said. “Like, what the hell are you doing dude? What are you doing?”

“We’ll see how long before it gets totalled,” John said. 

The viral video has freaked some people out, with some privacy experts pointing out that it was creepy and "gross." 

The couple say they rent cars via a website and on the app Turo. It is very common for owners who put their cars on Turo, an app that allows regular people to rent out their cars, to use trackers to keep an eye on their vehicles, judging from Reddit threads, Amazon reviews, and car blogs. Turo itself has a policy of allowing hosts to track their cars, including tracking GPS location, telematics, cameras with views of the exterior of the car, and dashboard cameras, among others. 

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Indeed, in a comment on TikTok, the couple said that “it’s disclosed and allowed/encouraged through Turo.” As for what they are using to track customers, they said that they use a tracker called Bouncie, a small device which can track location, speed, braking, battery and fuel levels, and can detect accidents, according to the official website. The tracker comes with a cellphone app and requires a monthly subscription. 

The fact that the couple publicly shows GPS coordinates of customers and comments on how they drive has irked some privacy experts.

“No company should be posting personal data of their users on the internet without their permission. Unethical and problematic, and just creepy,” Whitney Merrill, a privacy expert and lawyer, told Motherboard. “They have more videos where the wife is just ‘tracking’ the Porsche. And I as a consumer wouldn’t want to rent from any company or individual stalking me like that.”

“Unethical and problematic, and just creepy”

Merrill said that the couple “should explicitly disclose what they collect, how they collect it, and share Bouncie’s privacy notice since that’s the device collecting the data.”

“I really think we need a comprehensive privacy law that regulates the collection, use and sharing of the data collected by these modern cars and devices like Bouncie,” she added.

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Eva Galperin, who is also a privacy expert and the director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, “Spying on people who have rented your car (presumably without disclosing) is gross, but making TikToks about it takes it to a whole new level.” 

In another video, John said that “no, we don’t watch the people, we don’t personally care. This stuff is on there for documentation when it gets returned and if there was an incident.”

A Turo spokesperson said in a statement that “the trust and safety of our peer-to-peer car sharing community continues to be our priority at Turo.” 

“We are in contact with the hosts about the intended purpose for their device/system, and expect hosts to disclose to guests any telematics devices that they install in their vehicle,” the spokesperson said.

Kyle and John did not respond to a request for comment. 

The couple has an official website, which doesn’t include a privacy policy or terms of service that disclose that the customers will be tracked and their locations will be openly disclosed on TikTok. 

The couple have excellent reviews on their Turo page. And they do include the following disclaimer on the Turo page of their cars: “This vehicle is equipped with GPS and performance monitoring for insurance purposes.” 

There is no mention, however, about potentially ending up on TikTok. 

UPDATE, Sept. 29, 9:24 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to includo Turo’s statement.

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