A car could make our lives more convenient and comfortable. This is even more accurate when we choose to travel and explore the country with a car. However, are we completely risk free? Well, not really.

According to experts, your car may be spying on you. Almost all modern luxury vehicles come connected to the internet and with some location tracking machines installed. The car traces its location quietly, though there are some that actively send the information to remote servers when there is an internet connection.

This information can be utilized to save lives, for instance in the case of an accident, but it can also enable criminals and authorities to track you down whenever they want to.

Your Car is Sending your Personal Data to the Manufacturer

The modern car is like a laptop or computer on wheels, constantly sending streams of information about you to the manufacturer. While this is not a recent phenomenon, the advance in technology has led to an increase in the amount of information being collected and the growing feeling of privacy violation.

The Congressional Research Service report revealed that over 90% of new vehicles come with electronic sensors known as event data recorders (EDRs) installed in them.

While at face value, the EDRs are meant to screen data from drivers to help improve road and vehicle safety, these gadgets are pulling a bunch of personal information from drivers, including where they go and their individual driving patterns such as favorite routes and median speed.

As per the Congressional Research Service report mentioned above, the government’s point of view is that the data collected by the EDRs can help public safety organizations in various ways. They can be used to determine how an accident occurred, and evaluate the driver’s responsibility for an accident. The data can also be used by manufacturers to better understand car performance in crash circumstances, thus hopefully leading to vehicle upgrades and safer automobiles.

How to Protect Yourself

While it’s true that people love buying smart electronics, research shows that the same people care about their privacy. Because of this, consumers are advised to be careful about smart car risks and demand to be told about their vehicle’s capabilities and data guidelines.

Buying a used, older vehicle with no cameras and internet connection is always an excellent option, too. Hopefully, car manufacturers will become more transparent with whatever they do or earn consumer trust in other ways.

Here are some recommendations from Consumer Reports to help protect your privacy.

  • Be cautious when using your car’s phone system. Avoid downloading contacts to the vehicle’s phone system, and remember to turn off Bluetooth whenever you exit. 
  • Skip computerized tolls if you can
  • Keep a low profile. Avoid sharing self-identifying information like your Facebook status or publicizing your location on social networks.
  • Turn off your phone and remove the battery
  • Ensure your portable GPS is always with you
  • Ensure you read the privacy guidelines before signing up
  • Use a VPN to encrypt your phone’s internet traffic to seal off data leakage vulnerabilities

It is clear that the concept of the all-seeing, all-knowing smart vehicle is raising growing privacy concerns. The problem is that both ethical and legal rules are not as crystal clear as they ought to be. For instance, it is not clear, between the salesperson and the vehicle manufacturer, who should let the consumer know that the car will be tracking each one of their moves.

Until these rules are made clear, the responsibility of maintaining privacy solely lies with the consumer. While the above tips should help you stay safe when using your car, you also need to be careful when renting out or selling your car. Remember to wipe the car system clean before renting it out, selling it or returning a rental. You never know where your data might land down the road.

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