Consumer Data And Your Privacy In The Car

Your car generates an astounding amount of data. It knows how fast you tend to drive, where, whether or not you're wearing your seatbelt, or even fiddling with stereo or settings at the time of a crash. That data isn't a secret kept between yourself and your car. It can be sent back to manufacturers through the vehicle's connected-car service such as OnStar or built-in 4G data connections. It can be subpoenaed, or even shared with insurance companies. This situation can make a privacy conscious individual a little wary. As cars become smartphones on wheels capable of collecting more and more data about us, automakers have had to adapt in this connected car era.

Recognizing this, automakers have come together to adopt a set of protocols for handling consumer data, offering at least a veneer of privacy in the car. They are committing to a set of privacy practices, which is meant to both reassure consumers, and to head off new regulations which could hinder innovation. Essentially, their message to consumers is one of where people drive, and how they drive is of no concern to automakers. This is an agreement between BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen on industry-wide principles regarding the handling and safeguarding of consumer data and privacy.

"Modern cars not only share the road but will in the not-too-distant future communicate with one another," John Bozzella, president of the Association of Global Automakers, said in a statement. "Vigilance over the privacy of our customers and the security of vehicle systems is an imperative."

Some of the data collected includes geo-location data, biometric data about the driver and driving behaviour details.

Each of these companies has agreed to disclose to consumers the types of data they collect and how it is used or shared. This disclosure will appear in vehicle owner's manuals, on displays inside the vehicle or on internet-based registration portals. Policies will be made available prior to vehicle purchase. The car companies have each agreed to obtain permission from customers before embarking on any marketing based on personal information. They also will not provide driver behaviour data to insurance companies without the customer's consent. Consumer data collected can still be used for other purposes, such as internal research, locating a stolen vehicle, or for safety, diagnostics, maintenance or warranty purposes.

Most feel that the advantages of connected cars still outweigh the potential privacy issues. Connected cars have the ability to automatically call for emergency services, warn drivers of traffic jams and to help owners locate lost or stolen vehicles.

Privacy protection standards from the White House Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, Federal Trade Commission and the Fair Information Practice Principles helped provide guidance in developing the new rules.

Until now, each company's policies regarding data collection and disclosure has varied from one another.

By Linda Aylesworth -


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