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Massachusetts Ballot Question 1 Is A Battle Over Wireless Vehicle Data

MEDFORD (CBS) -- If Ballot Question 1, also known as "right to repair," sounds familiar, it's because Massachusetts already passed a version of it in 2012. That initiative allowed independent repair shops, like Al & Sons in Medford, to plug into a vehicle and get its diagnostics.

WATCH: Question 1 'Right To Repair' Debate

But here's the problem: newer cars are now sending that diagnostic information wirelessly to the manufacturer and dealer, instead of keeping it all on-board the car itself, and proponents of Question 1 argue that could eventually lock repair shops out of the data – and out of business.

"We got health insurance, we got property tax, and we gotta get paid," said Gene Lunt, who co-runs Al & Sons with his brother David. "And we got families. So it only can last so long."

So David and Gene are backing "Yes on 1" to give them access to those so-called telematics. They and national auto parts chains argue that'll keep them in business and give customers more choice.

"It will not improve the repair experience," countered Conor Yunits, who's with the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data. "And if it passes, it will put your data at risk."

Yunits argues the state's current Right to Repair law already allows access to vehicle data and says this expansion goes too far.

"Question 1 requires the creation of an open-access platform that directly connects to every wireless vehicle in Massachusetts and is accessible via a mobile app and it has to be done by next year," Yunits told WBZ-TV.

The "No" side, backed by vehicle manufacturers and dealerships, has released a string of ads warning voters that requirement could allow hackers to track a car's location or even take control of it.

"To say that somehow an app is going to be created in the next year that can securely connect to every single make and model of new vehicle across every brand in the world that's sold in Massachusetts and do it in a safe and secure way is completely ludicrous," Yunits argued.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a letter this summer saying more access to telematics data does pose some cyber-security risks, but the Right to Repair Coalition has argued that fear is overblown, enlisting former Boston Police Commissioner and WBZ-TV security analyst Ed Davis for its advertisements. They argue the data is already being transmitted wirelessly from newer vehicles, and that a secure platform can be built.

"Hackers can get into anything," David Lunt says. "Hackers are all over the place. I'm not a hacker, that's for sure."

Here are some additional resources:

No on Question 1 -

Yes on Question 1 -

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration letter on Question 1

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