Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

BMW Traps A Car Thief By Remotely Locking His Doors – Really?

Hmmm, I hope I never need this service but it is reassuring to know that it is possible. Seattle police caught an alleged car thief by enlisting the help of car maker BMW to both track and then remotely lock the luckless criminal in the very car he was trying to steal… Turns out if you’re inside a stolen car, it’s perhaps not the best time to take a nap. “A car thief awoke from a sound slumber Sunday morning (November 27) to find he had been remotely locked inside a stolen BMW, just as Seattle police officers were bearing down on him,” wrote Jonah Spangenthal-Lee [deputy director of communications for the Seattle Police Department].

Details are available in an article by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper in C|Net at

There is one detail that I do not understand. The article says, “BMW employees were able to remotely lock the car’s doors, trapping the suspect inside.” I own two General Motors automobiles and each of them has remotely-locking car doors. With each of my autos, I have a key fob and also a cell phone app that can start or stop the engine as well as lock or unlock the automobile doors. With the cell phone app, I can do that from anywhere in the world. I can also track the vehicle and tell exactly where it is located at any given moment from my location anywhere else in the world. Again, that is all done remotely with the cell phone app.

Once the doors are locked, anyone outside the automobile cannot open a door. HOWEVER, in both cases, the automobile doors can easily be unlocked and opened FROM THE INSIDE by anyone in the vehicle. Just pull on the door latch and open the door in the normal manner. The story described in the C|Net article would not work with either of my two OnStar-equipped vehicles.

Is BMW different? Can a BMW really lock someone inside the vehicle? If so, that would appear to be a significant safety hazard for other situations not involving car thieves.

Perhaps a knowledgeable BMW owner can jump in here and explain this to all of us.

Categories: Current Affairs, Legal Affairs

1 reply

  1. I think child locks prevent the doors from being opened from the inside, so I’d guess that’s what they activated?


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