In an era where technology permeates every facet of our lives, even our trusty automobiles have not been spared from the invasive reach of data collection.
A recent study conducted by Mozilla, the renowned nonprofit organisation dedicated to internet privacy, has shed light on the alarming privacy concerns associated with modern cars.
Car manufacturers have long touted their vehicles as “computers on wheels,” emphasising their advanced features and connectivity. However, while we fretted about the privacy of our smart home devices and wearables; car brands have quietly entered the data business, amassing a treasure trove of personal information.
The findings of the Mozilla study are startling:
- Excessive data collection: All 25 car brands examined in the research were found to collect more personal data than necessary for vehicle operation. This includes data from how drivers interact with their cars, connected services, car apps, and even third-party sources like Sirius XM or Google Maps.
The range of data collected is staggering, encompassing medical information, genetic details, and even aspects of one’s “sex life.” Car companies employ this information to make inferences about drivers’ intelligence, abilities, and interests.
- Data sharing and selling: A staggering 84 percent of the car brands surveyed admitted to sharing or selling personal data, often with service providers, data brokers, and other undisclosed entities.
The study also revealed that 56 percent of these brands were willing to share data with government or law enforcement, even in response to informal requests.
- Lack of control: Shockingly, 92 percent of the car brands provided drivers with little-to-no control over their personal data. Only two car brands, Renault and Dacia, offered the option to have personal data deleted.
This control gap is exacerbated by the absence of clear encryption standards for the data stored in these vehicles.
- Security concerns: None of the car brands could confirm meeting Mozilla’s Minimum Security Standards, a glaring lapse in an age where cybersecurity is paramount.
A concerning 68 percent of the car brands had a track record marred by leaks, hacks, and breaches, putting drivers’ privacy at risk.
Among the most noteworthy findings is that Tesla, known for its advanced technology, became only the second product ever reviewed by Mozilla to receive all privacy “dings.” This was attributed to concerns surrounding the brand’s AI-powered autopilot, which had been linked to numerous accidents and government investigations.
Other car companies – like Nissan and Kia – were flagged for collecting particularly intimate data, including information about drivers’ sexual activity. Hyundai raised eyebrows with its commitment to comply with “lawful requests, whether formal or informal,” without specifying the nature of these requests.
Perhaps most concerning is the fact that while car companies have access to this wealth of personal data, there is limited choice for consumers when it comes to privacy-respecting vehicles. Unlike other products where consumers can make informed choices, the study found that all cars reviewed earned the *Privacy Not Included warning label.
As consumers, there are steps we can take to protect our privacy—such as avoiding the use of car apps or limiting their permissions. However, these measures seem insufficient in the face of the vast data collection efforts employed by car companies.
The Mozilla community has taken a stand, urging car companies to reconsider their data collection practices. You can add your name to a petition that calls upon these companies to respect drivers’ privacy and cease the collection, sharing, and selling of personal information.
In a world where technology continues to advance, it is crucial that we remain vigilant about our privacy. The Mozilla study serves as a stark reminder that even in our cars, we must be aware of the data they collect and advocate for our right to privacy on the open road.
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