A new service available to all OnStar customers could make it even easier for abusive partners to track their survivors. Family Link, a new add-on service for OnStar subscribers, not only allows real-time tracking at street level, but also allows subscribers to schedule email or text alerts to update them on the location of their vehicle at specific dates and times.
For an additional $3.99 per month, subscribers can add the service to an existing OnStar account on factory-installed systems. Once active, vehicle owners are immediately able to use the system in the same way that law enforcement does without filing a police report. Using the Family Link website, they can pull up the exact location of the car at any time, as well as have the system itself inform them of the car’s (and thus driver’s) whereabouts. The product, as is common, is marketed primarily to parents of teens,. However, even the creators of the system acknowledge that the potential for misuse is present.
For advocates, it is important to be aware of this service, particularly if your shelter or advocacy agency is an undisclosed location. Just as we safety plan around GPS in cell phones, it may be wise to begin asking about the cars survivors bring to shelter with them, as well. If the car is equipped with OnStar, some immediate safety steps need to be taken. First, the survivor can make contact with OnStar and ask that their account be password protected, ie no information about the vehicle or its’ whereabouts can be released without the proper password. If the survivor is comfortable with it, the account can be cancelled altogether. However, be aware that that does not remove the GPS capability from the car. In cases with high lethality risk, taking the vehicle to a shop to have the system itself physically disabled may be the best course of action.