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Why Automakers Are Invading Your Privacy

Jun 08, 2024
Cars spy on drivers, and a growing chorus of politicians and

privacy

advocates say

automakers

aren't doing enough to protect consumer data, according to reports. Gigabytes of personal data. They know who directs it and where they direct huge amounts of data. You have a car that is connected to the outside world. Any of those connections could potentially be targeted by hackers. The Mozilla Foundation, creators of the Firefox browser, calls cars a

privacy

nightmare. They say they are the least secure devices you can buy. A powerful statement given the reputation of the tech industry these days. You know the potential for data collection is only growing and automotive companies have been getting away with it for a long time.
why automakers are invading your privacy
So, you know, is the toothpaste out of the tube? Can we put any of this back on or is this just the life we ‚Äč‚Äčlive now? And our cars are no longer a means of independence and privacy. They are a place where we can be spied on, surveilled and coerced. Each of the 25 brands the group reviewed earned a privacy rating not included, making the category as a whole the worst the group has ever evaluated. Nissan's privacy policy is probably the most mind-blowing, creepy, scary, sad, messy privacy policy we've ever read, the group said in 2023. And here at Privacy Not Included we read a lot of privacy policies.
why automakers are invading your privacy

More Interesting Facts About,

why automakers are invading your privacy...

And yet, overall, Nissan did better than Tesla. Making money from information about you, also known as data monetization, has been touted as a big business, although with mixed results. There's a big divide, right? Companies focus on collecting more and more data, trying to monetize it. They are failing at that. And what consumers want is exactly the opposite. In late April, two senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate

automakers

for allegedly misleading customers about their own data management practices. Other agencies at the state and federal level are investigating the matter. A car collects two types of technical and personal data.
why automakers are invading your privacy
Technical data is information about the car itself, battery, engine, condition, brakes, etc. Personal is the driver or passengers of the car. Almost everything you do in a car can be tracked and can store fingerprints and images of

your

facial features. Medical information for emergency assistance services, financial information for purchases, passwords,

your

home address and of course, your garage door codes. Cars can record tons of information about exactly where, when and how you drive and where and when you park. It is of great interest to all types of parties, including insurance companies. That they could collect your biometric information, your genetic information, your information about your sex life, your sexual activity, your marital status, your immigration status.
why automakers are invading your privacy
You know, things like that are very sensitive information. And again, you know, who knows if they're collecting it? All we know is that they require you to consent to a privacy policy that says they can do so. And the question then becomes, well, how does, you know, requiring that I give them consent to collect information about my sex life get me from point A to point B safely, which is what they're supposed to do? should the car do? That data is funneled to any of the approximately 60 onboard computers. Cars also usually have 4G or 5G modems.
This, of course, allows anyone in the car to use the Internet for browsing at work or, for example, if the kids in the back seat want to watch a movie during a road trip. But as you drive around the world, it also transmits a Wi-Fi network and the car's serial number. Rear-facing cameras are required by law, forward-facing cameras are common, and an increasing number of vehicles have cameras around them, such as in the mirrors for lane-keeping assist functions. Even some of the interior points towards the driver, such as those used for the driver assistance system. Do you want the OEM to constantly collect a photo of you or your passengers inside the car?
And some of them are camera based. Some of these are infrared eye monitoring systems. It somewhat varies depending on the OEM and model of what they decided to use. Um, I mean, even the forward-facing camera that you put inside your garage, that camera has a view inside your garage and, you know, possibly toward your house. There's data in there that, you know, I personally wouldn't want people to have a camera on 24/7 inside my garage. Tesla's Sentinel Mode, which monitors the car while it is parked, uses cameras located around the car to record suspicious activity. Connecting a smartphone provides an even greater source of data and the opportunity to establish a whole new range of connections.
The manufacturer of your smartphone may have a very strict data management policy, but the manufacturer of the infotainment system you connect it to may not. So who is interested in this data and what are they doing with it? It depends on who they are companies, police or criminals. First, let's talk about companies. I think it started with good intentions. Good. So again in cars, a lot of sensors were added and a lot of these features were actually for safety. Good. And then I think one day companies woke up and realized that, my God, we have this giant pile of data.
Consulting firm Mckinsey estimated in 2016 that the vehicle data monetization market would be worth around $750 billion by 2030. Some data is collected for internal use, for example, from the original equipment manufacturers themselves or their captive financial arm, or to provide data to its dealers. . In recent years, automakers have also attempted to offer features and services directly to customers in the car throughout the vehicle's lifespan. And that's when the diverging point started to happen, where the data collection became more and more because they wanted to know about you and promote you, and less and less because it was strictly necessary for the maintenance and safety of the vehicle. .
The data is sold or shared with advertising and research companies, social media companies and others. Of the 25 brands the Mozilla Foundation studied in 2023, 84% shared their data with outside companies and 76% sold it. That includes data brokers, who will sell extremely granular data on drivers, including metrics like heart rate and driver fatigue. The data can be sold to insurance companies, including those with which the driver has a policy. 56% of companies in Mozilla's study shared data with the government or authorities in response to a request, which seems to be a broad and confusing category that can include someone who simply requests it.
I do not want law enforcement to have access to any of my cars, data or information about my location or my microphone or camera without a significant reason to access it. And the fact that they said they could access it with something as simple as an informal request is a little crazy. We have a process and procedure to obtain a court order or wiretap. Um, for phones, there's really no laws or procedures in place about setting up a station that collects, you know, Mac addresses and serial numbers, tire pressure. But you can still start tracking that.
And you combine that with, say, a license plate reader on the outskirts of your city, and you set up some of these monitoring stations throughout your city. You can understand the pattern of where everyone in your city is going without having to have license plate readers everywhere. Finally, the crime. We've helped some dealerships over the last few years repossess vehicles because they realized that the consumer can come in with fake documents, they can test drive the car, create a connected account, and then guess what? This has become a spare key. You come back at night, you locate the car, you open it, you study, you take it.
Privacy for cars, a data privacy consumer protection company says that the data contained in a car is more valuable to criminals than the car itself. Data or privacy breaches have been the most common cybersecurity threat against automotive companies in the last decade. There are also cases of domestic abuse. A new plan unveiled today would create domestic abuse laws. Call on automakers to try to get ahead of some of the concerns that connected cars or cars that connect to the Internet could enable harassment because of features like the ability to track your car or turn it on or off remotely.
The problems continue after the car slips out of his hands. Four out of five cars are sold and still contain some personal data. And in fact, one of the biggest privacy issues we face today is that companies are bundling consent. My wife recently bought a car and it comes with one of those buttons that if you press or have an accident, she automatically calls emergency services. The problem is that you agree to give them much more data than they need for the service. I think we can all agree that safety is very important. That is, more than 40,000 people lose their lives every year.
Sometimes I feel like its security is a little bit less, you know, it holds us hostage and is used as a leverage point for companies to extract data that has nothing to do with it, that is not used for anything to do with security. What Amico was talking about is just one problem. Another is when companies allegedly collect data without any consent, and there have been several lawsuits for that reason, one driver said. General Motors and LexisNexis Risk Solutions collected and distributed their driving data, eventually reaching insurance companies. She found it difficult to get insurance from multiple providers, and when she did, her rates doubled.
It doesn't help that a car doesn't know who's driving. A friend or partner's worst driving habits could raise your insurance rate, GM told CNBC that it is reviewing the complaints and has no further comment at this time. It severed ties and stopped sharing data with Verisk and LexisNexis Risk Solutions on March 20, 2024. As Mozilla's report shows, almost every brand available in the US today has some form of data, policies or practices problematic. Cnbc contacted all the automakers on Mozilla's list: GM, Nissan, Toyota, Stellantis and BMW responded with statements saying they take customer privacy and data protection very seriously and comply with all applicable laws.
Nissan said previous reports suggested our privacy practices were misinterpreted or mischaracterized, and Stellantis added that Mozilla's report contained multiple errors. They say it contains all these errors, but they have never pointed out any of those errors to us directly. You know, because we always said we will make changes. If you can show us that we were wrong about something and that they didn't do any of that. Major trade group Alliance for Automotive Innovation shared a privacy memo that said connected car technology enables life-saving safety systems, allows automakers to proactively identify defects and determine solutions by design.
No, your car is not spying on you. Companies will tell you, well, everything is adequately disclosed in our privacy policy and terms, which takes each manufacturer on average, you know, five, six, seven hours to read. Very often you need an undergraduate degree or, you know, a graduate degree. Amico said auto privacy research indicates that fewer than 12% of dealers tell customers that their cars will share their data. Even when they do, they often say that the vehicle only shares data relevant to the vehicle's warranty or in case of emergency, or to provide some service. As cars become more packed with technology, the case for data monetization appears to have weakened.
In 2021, McKinsey cut its estimate of the connected car data market by about half. There's a little bit of hype at first, so, you know, the numbers can go down over time. And it is very common with high technology. I'm sure you remember the late '90s screenings about, you know, Internet stuff, right? You know, I'm not a math whiz, but I know what the next data point will be because it's a straight line. So the reality is, you know, all of these companies areThey focus on what is humbly just wrong, right? They focus on a pie that is shrinking over time, as companies find it increasingly difficult to monetize it.
And there is increasing pressure from regulators to reduce it even faster. National security concerns led the Biden administration to launch an investigation into the connected car supply chain in February 2024. FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan has been urged to investigate several automakers for misleading to their clients by falsely claiming that they needed a court order before handing them over. customer location data to government agencies. The Federal Communications Commission in April proposed new rules on vehicle data to protect victims of domestic abuse. The California Privacy Protection Agency, created in 2020, chose to review connected cars as its first case in 2023.
You know, I'm constantly asked, you know, what's the best car to buy? And unfortunately, right now the answer is probably that, if you're obsessed with privacy, it's an older car. And let's be honest, people can't prioritize privacy when buying a car. They have to look at what they can afford and what's available to them, what meets their needs and the fact that, you know, you can't return a car after you buy it because it has bad privacy. You know? So the big problem is that consumers don't have good options. I mean, it would be great if consumers could contact their elected officials and put pressure on what would be good for consumers because that's important.
That's the one thing I can tell consumers that could really make a difference in pushing for a strong, consumer-focused federal privacy law that protects everyone equally. First of all, if you sell your car, you will return it to a car rental company. Delete your data if you know how to do it, or ask them to do it for you, but they also give you written proof. In fact, they have done it because privacy is a bit in the world of broken promises. I hate to tell you.

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