VW wouldn’t locate kidnapped child because his mother didn’t pay for find-my-car subscription

All the harms of surveillance, none of the benefits.

Cory Doctorow
4 min readFeb 28


This Thu (Mar 2) I’ll be in Brussels for Antitrust, Regulation and the Political Economy, along with a who’s-who of European and US trustbusters. It’s livestreamed, and both in-person and virtual attendance are free. On Fri (Mar 3), I’ll be in Graz for the Elevate Festival.

The masked car-thieves who stole a Volkswagen SUV in Lake County, IL didn’t know that there was a two-year-old child in the back seat — but that’s no excuse. A violent car-theft has the potential to hurt or kill people, after all.

Likewise, the VW execs who decided to nonconsensually track the location of every driver and sell that data to shady brokers — but to deny car owners access to that data unless they paid for a “find my car” subscription — didn’t foresee that their cheap, bumbling subcontractors would refuse the local sheriff’s pleas to locate the car with the kidnapped toddler.

And yet, here we are. Like most (all?) major car makers, Volkswagen has filled its vehicles with surveillance gear, and has a hot side-hustle as a funnel for the data-brokerage industry.

After the masked man jumped out of a stolen BMW and leapt into the VW SUV to steal it, the child’s mother — who had been occupied bringing her other child inside her home — tried to save her two year old, who was still in the back seat. The thief “battered” her and drove off. She called 911.

The local sheriff called Volkswagen and begged them to track the car. VW refused, citing the fact that the mother had not paid for the $150 find-my-car subscription after the free trial period expired. Eventually, VW relented and called back with the location data — but not until after the stolen car had been found and the child had been retrieved.

Now that this idiotic story is in the news, VW is appropriately contrite. An anonymous company spokesman blamed the incident on “a serious breach” of company policy and threw their subcontractor under the (micro)bus, blaming it on them.

This is truly the worst of all worlds: Volkswagen is a company that has internal capacity to build…



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr