In the previous post (Shiny New Car) I wrote about all the bells & whistles, and the information your car’s infotainment collect. If you did not read it, you probably should. Today, I want to continue the conversation about the Data that is collected and what your car says about You.
Who Owns the Data? While anyone from an app developer to Google or Spotify may be capturing your digital moves while you drive, in most cases the primary collector and owner of this deluge of data is the Automaker. And while it presents some potentially valuable new opportunities for them, it also has raised some undesired customer relationship problems.
General Motors learned this the hard way in 2011 when it amended the terms and conditions for its OnStar communications system. They included a change that allowed OnStar to share vehicle information with other companies and organizations without asking for additional explicit consent from customers. The change led to numerous complaints, and the incident was even cited in a 2012 Supreme Court decision about warrantless tracking as evidence that drivers expect privacy behind the wheel.
Aside from just collecting data. Your car has a lot of electronics that is very useful to the maintenance, as well as your ease of comfortable driving. I could not function without a car and many of us need a car in order to keep a job. Plus, a car is necessary to get across town for the fantastic shopping deals on clothing & food to nurture our family. But, it can be a beast when all the electronics fail and cost an arm and leg to repair. Just recently I had to have some sensors replaced, because they were reporting that my tires were bad in error. . . old car problems.
Is There an Advantage to Sharing the Data?
There are cases in which drivers regularly choose to trade their data to get a benefit. For example, live traffic services like Inrix and Waze can save a driver hours of agony sitting in sweltering traffic in exchange for sharing location and speed information. The benefits to consumers – and potential threats to personal privacy and security is murky, as companies trade and combine information collected from multiple sources, including cars, to reveal travel and buying patterns. “We can tell who’s on the road, where they live, how frequently they make this trip, and whether or not they are on vacation,” said Laura Schewel, founder of StreetLight Data, which provides such information to clients like urban planners and retailers. By design, in-car telematics systems are a two-way street. Only after collecting data about a driver’s coordinates can they offer the location of the nearest gas station or a recommendation for a nearby pizzeria. But as the owner of a Nissan Leaf recently discovered, once a service possesses a motorist’s data, it is unclear how it might be used.Some More Tips for Protecting Personal Data in Rental Cars:
- Avoid connecting your phone to the infotainment system if you just need to charge your phone. Use the USB charger in the 12 Volt port (in the old cigarette lighter spot) instead.
- Notice what you give permissions to. Usually, the system lets you specify what kind of information you want the system to access.
- If you want to listen to some music, use a different cable to connect the headphone port on your phone to the audio system directly. If you cannot skip the benefits of hands-free calling, you should buy a third-party Bluetooth audio kit that does exactly that.
- To protect your personal information consider setting your home address to a nearby intersection. Then strangers won’t know the precise directions to your actual home address.
Now that we know all about the information stored in the car via the infotainment systems. You must Delete it when returning a rental or selling the car. This is usually as simple as popping into the Bluetooth setup menu and removing your phone from the Paired Phones list, which will usually clear your logs along with it. If it doesn’t, or if you just want to make sure, look for a “clear private data” or factory reset option in the menu for peace of mind.
All this talk about data. . . is not the only trouble lurking when you press the gas pedal. A much bigger problem is, how new vehicle infotainment systems, take drivers’ eyes & attention off the road, and hands off the wheel for potentially dangerous periods of time. According to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. . . Drivers using in-vehicle technologies like voice-based and touch screen features were visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds, when completing tasks like programming navigation or sending a text message. Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash, according to previous research. On top of the hazardous driving, the recent U.S President signed legislation in April 2017, overturning some internet privacy protections. This new legislation allows companies to more freely collect information on customers, including mobile users. “So if you have a smartphone, and you still have an expectation of privacy,” said Ms. Schewel of StreetLight, “you’re fooling yourself.”
This is not Fake News! Do your own research about that shiny new car & read the manuals before you sign up for in-dash systems. Please, please be cautious with oversharing your phone records via your infotainment system. And. . program your destination information in the parking lot before you rush out onto these mean streets.