Technology in modern cars allows for some incredibly cool and convenient features. They’re basically four-wheeled extensions of smartphones. As wonderful as it is to start a vehicle from a phone app or park it yourself, there is a flip side to all this.
A new study from the Mozilla Foundation recently dubbed it a “privacy nightmare on wheels.” Modern vehicles can collect as much data about their drivers as their phones, meaning any car manufactured within the last decade can tell automakers everything they know about their customers through their data.
Privacy is a relic of the past.
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Many people enjoy having a vehicle with backup cameras, and while they certainly make parking less difficult – they are also detrimental to driver privacy. Mozilla’s study cited external cameras as a significant privacy concern. Tesla, everyone’s favorite polarizing car company, didn’t fare well in Mozilla’s study of security concerns. However, his track record makes this seem like a surprising plot twist.
There have long been reports of Tesla employees swapping footage taken from their vehicle cameras as if they were trading something as trivial as baseball cards. Some of the videos he reportedly shared range from not wearing clothes to children being run over by vehicles. There is also an incident where two former Tesla employees gave a German media outlet access to the personal information of 75,000 people. This was a bad look for any technology related company if there ever was one.
Tesla isn’t the worst offender.
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Again – regardless of the brand of vehicle, external cameras are a huge privacy risk. It is not uncommon for accident footage and other private data to be extracted long after a vehicle has gone to the junkyard. Hackers can also determine whether a driver was using their phone at the time of an accident, as well as reveal anything about them from their phone’s unencrypted data.
The Mozilla study found that German automaker Volkswagen collects a variety of information ranging from driver’s driving habits to seat belt usage to Internet history. VW uses most of this personal data for targeted advertising. Same is the situation for Ford. They track all the locations of your vehicle even when the location setting is disabled. This is in line with almost every car company’s policy on sharing data with law enforcement, which they vaguely define as “reasonably necessary.”
The doors are not closed on data.
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The worst offenders in Mozilla’s study were Subaru, Kia and Nissan. All three collect data about the sexual activities of their customers.
Like Honda, these car companies use broad language in their privacy policies that grant them specific license to track and store this type of personal data of their customers — no matter how private or revealing. Why not to be. In short – anyone who values their privacy should not buy new cars.