Autos, Autos, Auto, Data, Connected Vehicle, Connected Cars, Ryan Calo, Dorothy Glancy, Lee Tien, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Law Enforcement, Data Privacy, Data Privacy United States, Bmw, Mercedes, Mercedes Benz, Otonomo, Ben Volkow, Alliance For Automotive Innovation, Priv

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Automakers are selling massive amounts of your personal data to third parties thanks to unclear laws and regulations

As cars become more connected, automakers are becoming hubs for massive amounts of data. What they do with that data isn't clear, according to privacy experts.

10/28/2021 3:14:00 AM

As cars become more connected, automakers are becoming hubs for massive amounts of data. What they do with that data isn't clear, according to privacy experts.

As cars become more connected, automakers are becoming hubs for massive amounts of data. What they do with that data isn't clear, according to privacy experts.

both say that while they collect personally identifiable information to improve their service. For third-party vendors, they share non-identifiable information.Toyota, in accordance the California Consumer Privacy Act, tells new car buyers that in the preceding 12 months of ownership, the company may have sold personal information to third-parties, such as: contact information, consumer product and service data, consumer online activity and consumer interaction data.

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Consent for this policy is gained, according to Toyota when you purchase or lease a Connected Services-equipped vehicle and do not deactivate that service, use Connected Services in your vehicle, agree to a subscription agreement for Connected Services, agree to an end user license agreement for your app suite and use compatible third-party services in connection with the app suite.

According to Hyundai's policy,"Hyundai may share personal information, including information about users of Services or vehicle owner information, with third parties including our affiliates and subsidiaries, authorized dealers, and licensees."

Hyundai and Toyota are not unique in their approaches.A group of 20 automakers, as part of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI), signed onto a commitment to"provide customers with clear, meaningful information about the types of information collected and how it is used" in 2018.

"In privacy terms, we tend to argue that just implied consent is not enough," she said."They need to have truly informed consent and active consent by everyone who uses this technology."The AAI also commits to getting informed consent before"using geolocation, biometric, or driver behavior information for marketing and before sharing such information with unaffiliated third parties for their own use."

Currently, Calo explained, the only way for drivers to try to reign in any abuse of their data at the federal level is by filing a complaint with an"underfunded and understaffed" Federal Trade Commission (FTC).Honda Promises New Safety Technology Coming by Decade's End

Read moreHonda Promises New Safety Technology Coming by Decade's EndA small patchwork exists at the state level. Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act, for example, allows individuals to sue companies for damages for misuse of biometric data.

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Overall, Calo says that the focus on data collection tends to be on the potential harms instead of examining the benefits."What are the real benefits here," he asked."Is this stuff really all that beneficial or is it a gold rush?"He says that on the whole, the use of this data has been more about turning a profit than providing customers tangible benefits.

Ben Volkow would argue that data collection from vehicles is wholly beneficial. He's the CEO of Otonomo, a publicly traded company that places itself in the middle of automakers, vehicle data and third-parties in search of that data. They act as a middleman, advertising themselves as a"one-stop shop for vehicle data."

The company directs car data to insurance companies, fleet managers, market researchers and others. It counts BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Avis Budget Group among its clients.Otonomo receives personally identifiable data and anonymized data, like car make, car model, geo-coding country and city, longitudes and latitudes of the vehicle location, RPM, battery voltage and fuel level.

With the caveat that they only receive personally identifiable data with explicit consent, they also receive names, your car's license plate number, any government issued IDs, telephone numbers and addresses.Speaking withNewsweek, Volkow said that his company only receives data from carmakers that have received consent from drivers.

"Data is innocent," Volkow asserted."If there's something wrong in the process, let's fix it. But I know that my sole responsibility around my business is always to make sure that I have all the right approvals for the data I'm getting. And this is being done."

When pressed about how those consents are acquired, however, he conceded that"maybe" the consent process needs to be strengthened.Autonomous Vans Will Go into Service Above the Arctic Circle in 2022Read moreAutonomous Vans Will Go into Service Above the Arctic Circle in 2022

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"Openness of data without consent is very bad," he said."I'm not saying there isn't consent but maybe consent could be more clear."Volkow says not sharing data is just as bad, saying that he would prefer to see the democratization of data access as a way to improve the world.

"When we do this we need to have the right consents in place," he said."But keeping data buried in basements with no access is also not a positive thing. Because the data can save you money, increase safety and improve your life so you want it shared. But I guess you want it shared in the right place with consent, visibility and transparency."

He also pointed out that on the platforms his company operates on, drivers can opt out of some data collection.Complying with California's privacy law, Otonomo says on their website that in the last 12 months they have sold: identifiers, internet or other electronic network activity information, vehicle information, geolocation data and"inferences drawn from of the information identified" in the other categories.

At the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for civil liberties in the digital space, senior staff attorney Lee Tien tracks legislative efforts surrounding privacy at the state and federal level. Read more: Newsweek »


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