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Domestic abuse victims say tracking software in cars can put them in danger. How a N.Y. lawmaker is trying to help

How a N.Y. lawmaker is trying to help prevent domestic abuse victims from being tracked
How a N.Y. lawmaker is trying to help prevent domestic abuse victims from being tracked 03:15

NEW YORK - A New York lawmaker is trying to address the problem of domestic abuse victims being stalked and tracked through their cars.

For years, CBS New York has covered the issue of people from New York and beyond having alleged stalkers place GPS devices in their cars, but with newer cars, tracking software is often built into the vehicle.

Upper West Side Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal wants to require automakers to terminate access to remote tracking upon request from a domestic violence victim.

"The victim would have to have an order of protection or other documentation to show that they are domestic violence survivors and documentation to show that the car is actually theirs," Rosenthal said.

"It mentally cripples you"

A Bronx woman recently told CBS New York her estranged husband, who she says is abusive, had an after-market remote start system installed on the car she drives. She says the system's app can show where she last parked, and she's worried her partner can still see it since she still drives the car.

"It makes me feel like I could potentially be in danger because whether he accesses the app to meet me or ambush where I am, or whether he accesses the app to perhaps put some malware in the car, I'm not sure. It is nerve-wracking and it's a concern," she said.

Queens attorney Lindsey Song says some of her clients have struggled to get help from automakers.

"They're trying to manage their own safety and that of their children, so are they gonna be able to call the automaker nonstop for three days or contact through the chat or send emails or follow up? No because they're trying to get somewhere safe for themselves and their kids," Song said.

Earlier this year, Christine Dowdall, of Louisiana, told "Inside Edition" her ex-husband stalked her through an app connected to their Mercedes Benz.

"He pulled up beside me in the truck, his truck, and sit there, rolled the window down and just stared at me, so I knew he knew where I was," Dowdall said.

In Dowdall's case, the title for the vehicle was in her husband's name. She says Mercedes told her there was nothing they could do, so she found a mechanic who disabled the software for $400.  

"It mentally cripples you. I don't care what anybody says, it does," Dowdall said.

Automakers respond to stalking concerns

Mercedes told CBS New York their tracking feature is meant to find lost or stolen cars. They said they welcome proposals which might help in cases where the feature is misused and they already have some measures in place to help victims of stalking.

A spokesperson added that Mercedes-Benz reviews requests on a case-by-case basis and does consider urgent circumstances when supporting customers. They added the company is also working with the Alliance for Automotive Innovation on a federal legislation aimed at giving survivors a way to terminate access to remote services and providing liability protection to automakers terminating access by abusers who are authorized users.

Toyota, Ford and more automakers are also members of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. 

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