Privacy Rights and Your Car

Is privacy dead? Most of us know that if we write a blog, tweet, share on Facebook, pin something on Pinterest, or share a video on YouTube, it’s probably not private. The same goes for email and those cookies which seem to track every website we visit. But did you know your car may have the ability to share more about you than you’d like?

Most cars which have been built in the last 20 have in essence a computer system built in them. It controls functions like shifting gears, measuring the fuel and oxygen mixture, managing the injectors, and a host of other functions. There are some though, that share much more and you may not even know about it.

According to a recent Associated Press article, a number of recent model cars and trucks have the ability to communicate information to the manufacturer on where you’ve been and where you’re going. Vehicles equipped with GPS and mobile communications technology integrated into the computers and navigation systems are able to do this.

Those that do, send the data continuously to the car or truck maker when the systems are in use. In addition to reporting on where you’ve been and where you are probably going, these systems are able to send data on your vehicle position, heading, speed, as well as, other data. The article declined to share what the other data is.

The benefit of these systems is they are able to warn you of poor traffic conditions, as well as offer you services you may be interested in. The one downside I see to all this is there’s another computer system that tracks data on me and I have no idea how it’s being used or for what. The good news, at least in this case, is the automakers are taking a public stand on who has access to that data.

A group of 19 automakers, consisting of Aston Martin, BMW, Chrysler, Ferrari, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo, presented a letter to the Federal Trade Commission last week. In the letter, the automakers agreed to protect motorists’ privacy. They also agreed to:

  • Not share this data with authorities without a court order
  • Sell it to insurance companies
  • Bombard people with ads without their permission
  • Undertake reasonable measures to protect this data

I am grateful they have taken these steps, but I would encourage them to take it further and fully release what they are doing with this data. I have no issue with engine diagnostic data being gathered; it makes it easier for my mechanic to determine what repairs are needed. I’m not sure, though, my vehicle manufacturer needs to know where I’ve been, where I am at any given moment, or where I’m headed. I’m also very curious about what the other data is that’s being streamed to the manufacturer.

What do you think? Share your concerns, questions, and comments with us on our Facebook or Google + pages. I’d love to hear from you!

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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