Who is riding shotgun in your car? Data!

And it’s spying on you
Who is riding shotgun in your car? Data!
Connected vehicle

Today’s cars come with all the bells and whistles, and many of those gizmos are relaying data and sensitive information about you to product and machine manufacturers and data collectors.

Those commercials and music you’re listening to? The driving violations you make and the stops along the way? Someone is taking note of that, in multimedia mode.

Data collection companies stand to commercially benefit from this and reap billions of dollars! The connected vehicle data market is estimated will be worth somewhere between $300 billion to $800 billion by 2030.

What gives car brands this right? Did we sign off on that?

What privacy?

The nonprofit Mozilla Foundation recently looked at 25 car brands’ privacy and security and said: “While we worried that our doorbells and watches that connect to the internet might be spying on us, car brands quietly entered the data business by turning their vehicles into powerful data-gobbling machines.”

Mozilla said most car brands have no qualms about sharing information with government and law enforcement agencies when requested to do so, They don’t even require a court order to hand over your private life to anyone who asks.

What if you want to delete your data and not let anyone use it? General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) clearly says companies must let users delete their data. Mozilla only found two of the companies they reviewed (Renault and Dacia) that allow that, but only in Europe.

It appears that car companies have way more data collection points than even your newest smartphone.

From how you interact with your car, to connected services you use, and navigation apps, it‘s a free-for-all.

It’s not just how fast you drive, where you drive, or what songs you listen to that are being collected. Your heartbeats and medical information, and even your genetic history are somehow logged. This data can be used to make conclusions about things like your IQ, skills, and interests.

car data

What happens to your Data?

Mozilla said that 84 percent of the car brands it researched say they can share your personal data with service providers, data brokers, and other businesses. 76 percent say they can sell it.

The problem is that 92 percent give drivers little to no control over their personal data.  And most drivers are clueless as to what data is being transmitted from their vehicles.

A recent survey of drivers by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada found that only 28 percent of respondents clearly understood the types of data their vehicle produced, and a third knew who had access to that data.

Read: The differences between data privacy and data security

How is the data collected?

As soon as you get into your car, provided it’s a newer model, a multitude of sensors transmit data points that flow to the car’s computer. This may look like harmless data. Things like the driver door is unlocked and the internal cabin temperature is set at 23° C, or if the ignition button is pressed. It’s not harmless. This information can create inferences about how old you are, how fast you act, what temperatures you like, or how patient or impatient you can be. This data may rank you on an IQ scale, for all we know.

Did you know that insurers partner with vehicle data hubs and collect data from smartphone apps or “onboard diagnostics” dongles in the car?

This allows them to create “usage-based insurance” (UBI) products priced on driver data. You may want to ask your insurance about that and plead your case to lower your premiums.

These data points are processed by the car’s computers and transmitted via cellular radio back to the car manufacturer’s servers.

So, now you’re driving, and sensors capture location, speed, whether the brakes are applied, which song you’re playing, and whether oil gages are low. All this may lead to more deductions about your character.

Car manufacturers, also known as OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) use such data to sell maintenance, emergency roadside assistance, and other driver convenience services. How convenient!

So the next time you drive, be careful what you say on the phone, how fast you drive, and what commercials you listen to. They will come back to haunt you. It’s that, or stick to driving 15-year-old automobiles. Your secrets are pretty much safe there.

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