Even basics in dispute on Right to Repair ballot question

Massachusetts voters will be asked in November whether to update the Right to Repair law — but they may have a hard time wading through the complexities of a ballot question when supporters and opponents cannot even agree on the basics of what it will do.

Tommy Hickey, director of the Right to Repair Coalition, and Conor Yunits, a spokesman for No on One, joined the Codcast to discuss the ballot question – and disagreed on even the most factual details of what the current law says and how the ballot question would change it.

Today, cars are equipped with a port where a mechanic can plug in and diagnose a problem. The ballot question would require manufacturers to create a new open access data platform where consumers, and their repair shops, could use a mobile app to access telematic data, which is information transmitted wirelessly.

Hickey said telematics is simply new technology that provides the same diagnostic and repair information now available through the port. He compared it to the internet and email replacing letters and pay phones. “There is a new, more efficient way to diagnose and repair a car,” Hickey said.

Hickey called the ballot question an update to the 2013 law, maintaining the spirit of the law that gives independent repair shops the same ability to fix a car as a dealership. He said the ballot question will create “a level playing field” where owners can access their car’s information and “can continue to get their cars fixed where they want.” For example, a repair shop owner might want to get a notification that a car’s brakes are about to wear out – a notification now sent only to a dealer.

But Yunits said the ballot question would require the sharing of additional information, like a car’s location. Yunits said the Autocare Association, one of the ballot question’s funders, has been showing mockups of a mobile app that includes GPS location and behavior data. “It goes well beyond mechanical data,” Yunits said. “And that is where the risk is.”

The No on One campaign released a TV ad featuring a woman walking to her car in an isolated parking garage. The ad warns that if Question 1 passes updating the state’s Right to Repair law, anyone – even a stalker — could determine where she is.

Yunits said the ad stems from testimony from domestic violence prevention groups, which worry that a hacker to the car’s mobile app could access real-time location data. “With that information, people would be able to track an individual down, potentially take control of the vehicle, turn off the vehicle,” Yunits said.

Hickey said the concerns raised by one of the domestic violence groups related to a different California proposal, and the ballot question is only about mechanical data, not personal data. “This is about mechanical information, diagnostic and repair information, that is not GPS location,” Hickey said.

Part of the dispute is what the 2013 Right to Repair law already covers.

Hickey said the 2013 law excludes telematics, which was a relatively unknown technology at the time the laws passed. With the advance in telematics, Hickey said, “We’re back to pre-2012 with a wireless communication system that is unregulated and unstandardized that independent repairs and owners do not have access to. And it’s sent strictly to car manufacturers and their dealers.”

But Yunits says the 2013 law excludes some aspects of telematics – like GPS location data – but does require dealers to share telematics that involve repair and diagnostic information. “The existing law ensures that they have everything they need to diagnose and repair the vehicle,” Yunits said. “What Question One would do is expand that information available to not just local repair shops, but to any third parties, well beyond what is needed to diagnose and repair a vehicle.”

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

While the Boston Police Department investigates wrongdoing, some employees are out on extended paid administrative leaves that cost the agency $2.5 million.

Revised medical parole rules, which are designed to release medically incapacitated inmates, draw fire as still too tough.

Opinion: Lawrence S. DiCara joins the ranks of those who say the state needs to think big in addressing the reconstruction of the throat section of the I-90 Allston interchange…..US Rep. Ayanna Pressley and 1199 SEIU vice president Tim Foley say anti-union efforts reflect racist attitudes….Police need to be removed from our schools, says Liza Hirsch of Massachusetts Advocates for Children….Kathy Laflash of the New England Gas Workers Alliance hailsthe new attitude of the Department of Public Utilities…The comments of SJC justices suggest they are off base when it comes to Gov. Charlie Baker’s emergency powers, according to attorney David Geiger.

FROM AROUND THE WEB             

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Globe editorial says it’s time for action from Mayor Marty Walsh on reforms to the Boston Police Department.

Two Salem city councilors accuse other members of the council of texting with the mayor during council meetings, in violation of ethics laws, a charge those councilors deny. (The Salem News)

A Berkshire Eagle editorial laments the defamation lawsuit filed by Barry Clairmont, the husband of Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, against Melissa Mazzeo, Tyer’s challenger in the last mayoral election.

Needham hires an attorney to investigate allegations of racism against the police department. (MetroWest Daily News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Trials are underway at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital of COVID-19 plasma treatment. (The Salem News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Republicans are prepared to move quickly on a new Supreme Court nomination following Friday’s death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Washington Post) Conservative federal Appeals Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett appears to be the frontrunner for the court nomination. (New York Times) Gov. Charlie Baker tweets that the nomination and confirmation of a new US Supreme Court justice should wait until after the November election. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

Gov. Charlie Baker films an ad endorsing Maine Republican US Sen. Susan Collins for reelection. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

John Kerry, who has long battled climate change from various public perches, is now an investor and advisor to a Wall Street fund that is trying to set a global price for carbon emissions. (Boston Globe)

South Shore restaurants wonder how they’ll weather the winter. (Patriot Ledger)

EDUCATION

Catholic schools are seeing an influx of applicants as parents seek an in-person education for their children. (MassLive)

Poor air quality and ventilation at many Massachusetts schools are presenting problems for reopening plans. (Boston Globe)

Superintendent Brenda Cassellius says half of Boston families plan to continue remote-only learning all year. (GBH)

Adrian Walker decries the secretive handling of merger talks that he says are underway between Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology and Wentworth Institute of Technology. (Boston Globe)

Some say the information provided in Massachusetts’ COVID-19 dashboard on higher education testing is too incomplete to be meaningful to the public. (MassLive)

TRANSPORTATION

Residents living near the West Gloucester train station say the noise of idling trains has become unbearable. (Gloucester Daily Times)

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority will extend its free fares through the end of the year. (Telegram & Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Nine communities will decide whether to adopt the Community Preservation Act this year, in what is a tough year for communities to consider levying property tax surcharges in exchange for state money to conserve open space. (Telegram & Gazette)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Governor’s Councilor Mary Hurley and retired SJC justice John Greaney are among the Western Massachusetts officials calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to nominate a judge to the SJC who comes from Western Massachusetts. (MassLive)

The federal and state courts are gearing up to resume jury trials, and figuring out all kinds of COVID-19 safety details – like how to hold a sidebar conversation between a judge and the attorneys and how to conduct jury selection. (MassLive)

Fall River’s police chief says a Violent Gun Task Force formed two months ago has led to 120 arrests and three seized handguns. (Herald News)

MEDIA

Poynter explores what it calls the new mini-trend or metro newspapers expanding outside their core circulation area. Case in point: the Boston Globe opening a bureau in Providence.

PASSINGS

Former Quincy mayor Joseph LaRaia, whose career in the city’s politics spanned more than four decades, has died. (Patriot Ledger)