/How Much Are Cars Spying On Their Owners?

How Much Are Cars Spying On Their Owners?

“We’re at a turning point for driving surveillance,” reports the Washington Post (in an article shared by long-time Slashdot reader
davidwr ). “In the 2020 model year, most new cars sold in the United States will come with built-in Internet connections, including 100 percent of Fords, GMs and BMWs and all but one model Toyota and Volkswagen.”

Often included for free (or sold as an add-on), these connections mean “Cars are becoming smartphones on wheels,” collecting and sending data “pretty much wherever their makers want. Some brands even reserve the right to use the data to track you down if you don’t pay your bills….”

On a recent drive, a 2017 Chevrolet collected my precise location. It stored my phone’s ID and the people I called. It judged my acceleration and braking style, beaming back reports to its maker General Motors over an always-on Internet connection… Modern vehicles don’t just have one computer. There are multiple, interconnected brains that can generate up to 25 gigabytes of data per hour from sensors all over the car… Most hide what they’re collecting and sharing behind privacy policies written in the kind of language only a lawyer’s mother could love…

The Tesla Model 3 can collect video snippets from the car’s many cameras. Coming next: face data, used to personalize the vehicle and track driver attention… Coming 5G cellular networks promise to link cars to the Internet with ultra-fast, ultra-high-capacity connections. As wireless connections get cheaper and data becomes more valuable, anything the car knows about you is fair game. GM’s view, echoed by many other automakers, is that we gave them permission for all of this…

Five years ago, 20 automakers signed on to volunteer privacy standards, pledging to “provide customers with clear, meaningful information about the types of information collected and how it is used,” as well as “ways for customers to manage their data.” But when I called eight of the largest automakers, not even one offered a dashboard for customers to look at, download and control their data…. GM’s privacy policy, which the company says it will update before the end of 2019, says it may “use anonymized information or share it with third parties for any legitimate business purpose.” Such as whom? “The details of those third-party relationships are confidential,” said GM spokesman David Caldwell.

There are more questions. GM’s privacy policy says it will comply with legal data demands. How often does it share our data with the government? GM doesn’t offer a transparency report like tech companies do….

GM said “much” of their data can’t be linked to a specific person, though the Post adds that “there were clues to what more GM knows on its website and app. It offers a Smart Driver score — a measure of good driving — based on how hard you brake and turn, and how often you drive late at night.”

Meanwhile, the Post also reports that OnStar’s privacy policy lets them keep the data they collect “pretty much forever… At least smartphone apps like Google Maps let you turn off and delete location history.”

Car and Driver noted that the Post’s reporter even found photos of his phone’s contacts, concluding “Your car is collecting and transmitting a lot more data than you think.”

In 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office looked at automakers and their data privacy policies and found that the 13 car companies it looked at are not exactly using best practices. For example, while the automakers say they obtain “explicit consumer consent before collecting data,” the GAO says they “offered few options besides opting out of all connected vehicle services to consumers who did not want to share their data.”