Is your car spying on you?

Cars are sharing much more information about you than you realize

A car wheel.

Modern cars are a far cry from the early iterations of the automobile. From humble beginnings to computers with wheels: the car has truly embraced the digital age. But, while modern cars and their conveniences are great for busy people in a hurry, are they in actual fact, hoovering up our personal data, without our consent?

According to a new report from Kaspersky, people are becoming increasingly wary of car manufacturers collecting and potentially sharing driver data. 72% said that they were “uncomfortable” with the idea of automakers sharing their data with third parties. Indeed, similar to apps and websites, you often don’t know what data is being shared and with whom it’s being shared. Mozilla’s recent study on car privacy called automobiles the “worst product category ever reviewed for privacy” with new cars collecting “more personal data than necessary” and reserving the right to share with third parties. Alarmingly, this data can include everything from “media consumption habits to such intimate details as your sexual preferences and even your genetic information.”

To compound the issue, deleting your data after it has been shared with automakers is often much more difficult than in places like Europe, where GDPR affords citizens greater protection. Some states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah and Virginia) do have some data privacy laws, but it’s often not very straightforward about how to go about it.

What can be done?

One of the more obvious steps can include buying a used car that doesn’t have all the modern technology, but many of us have come to enjoy the trappings of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. If that’s the case, privacy experts recommend that you at least limit what your phone shares when it’s paired with your car, such as your address book. They also recommend against installing the phone app that comes with your car, since it can provide a crucial connection to other data on your phone.

If you’re not it the market for an old car, the next best thing you can do is speak to your car manufacturer or dealership, to ask them what policies are in place. If you live in one of the five previously mentioned states, and you’d like to see your data removed, you’ll need to speak to your automaker about how to delete your personal information.

Outside of these things, if consumers aren’t happy about the state of data-privacy in the car market, it’s up to manufacturers to better explain data sharing, and give consumers the option (much like websites) to opt out of third-party data sharing. Failing that, we may need stronger data privacy laws.

If you wish to learn more about the study, head here.