Connected cars' privacy policies grant manufacturers data rights


Modern vehicles are networks of sophisticated computers on wheels that can collect more intimate data about ourselves and our lives than smartphones do. The agreements covering nearly every new vehicle that is leased or sold in the US often now include a clause permitting the manufacturer to monitor where the car goes, how the owner drives, and even the in-car entertainment they prefer. In 2018, it was estimated that 78 million of these cars had internet connections that allow the data they collect to be sent back to the manufacturer for processing. Drivers may not realise it, but tens of millions of cars may now be monitored in this way. Increasingly, car manufacturers are software companies; Ford projects that by 2020 each of their vehicles will contain 100 million lines of code - double that of the first space shuttle. In general, manufacturers claim the data they collect is used to improve performance, enhance vehicle safety, and eventually reduce traffic accidents. For the moment, location data has the greatest potential for placing drivers at risk; the World Privacy Forum notes that where you travel can expose everything from buying habits to personal relationships. Trips to clinics can also expose health information outside of the Health Information Privacy Protection Act (HIPAA). Honda declined to provide more specific information about how it uses the information it collects; General Motors, which began collecting customer data in real time in 1996, and Ford say they only do so with a customer's consent. Many car makers partner with Otonomo, which calls itself the "first connected car marketplace" and which helps them commercialise their data. University of Washington professor Ryan Calo notes that the more data the companies collect the greater the incentive to monetise it.
Writer: Peter Holley


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