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Car manufacturers store driving habits, location data for unknown amount of time - report

Published time: January 08, 2014 22:20
Reuters / Lucy Nicholson

Reuters / Lucy Nicholson

US automakers are using the navigation systems installed in millions’ of drivers cars to track their whereabouts and the duration they stay in one place, and there’s no way for an individual to erase this data, a new government investigation has found.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report this week examining Detroit’s Big Three automakers -- Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler -- as well as Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. Investigators found that when it comes to a car company tracking a driver’s data – in order to locate a nearby gas station or help with direction, for instance – each business has a widely different policy.

What was consistent, though, is that “if companies, retained data, they did not allow consumers to request that their data be deleted, which is a recommended practice.”

The report did not identify the specific policies employed by each of the automakers, although it did also study the tracking policies of global positioning options including Garmin, TomTom, Google Maps, and Telenav.

Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, first requested the report and said that auto companies have taken steps to protect their customers, although more needs to be done to make them aware of the current policies.

Modern technology now allows drivers to get turn-by-turn directions in a matter of seconds, but our privacy laws haven’t kept pace with these enormous advances,” Franken said in a statement Monday. “Companies providing in-car location services are taking their customers’ privacy seriously – but this report shows that Minnesotans and people across the country need much more information about how data are being collected, what they’re being used for, and how they’re being shared with third parties.”

Franken also said that he plans to introduce legislation regarding vehicle-specific privacy within the year.

Cars track customers in a number of ways that many customers are likely unaware of. Along with navigation systems, some parents want their cars tracked in order to keep an eye on teenagers behind the wheel. Many models are sold with data recorders, similar to the “black boxes” used in airplanes that record pilots’ conversations and actions, that are used to piece together information in the event of a crash.

Other commuters use transponders like EZ-PASS to avoid waiting in tollbooth lanes. Such devices are used as evidence when police are investigating someone who may have used their car to commit a crime, but how long that data is kept is unknown.

The GAO report noted “companies should safeguard location data, in part, by de-identifying them; that companies should not keep location data longer that needed; and that such data should be deleted after a specific amount of time.”

GM spokeswoman Heather Rosenker told the Detroit News that the company does not keep records of customers’ turn-by-turn navigation and that “OnStar takes seriously matters that affect our customers’ privacy and operates its services with strong privacy protections and practices.”

Comments (6)

 

Nancie Neal 28.07.2014 13:06

Pot calling the kettle black.

Whic h is worse, Having one entity gather info on users to perhaps use it for improving services or another gather infomation with intent to control?

If you want to avoid having any info gathered on you, then perhaps you might want to consider joining the Amish. The strictest order, that is.

 

Milan Bilek 22.01.2014 20:03

It seems like, no matter how good the intention of the manufacturer is, it unevitably leeds to be abused by some secretive surveillance service, or at least can and will be handed over them by request! The picture of a totalitarian controlled society is inevitable, at least here in the west, where the companies are in the hands of these shady gangsters of Surveillance Societys and Governments! All in all, it will lead to an unfree and frightening life for ordinary people!

 

mergon 12.01.2014 12:51

PROOF OF THE PUDDING !

UK the government has done away with the DVLA mot all you get now is a garage print out , they are doing away with DVLA TAX DISCS , this being followed by DVLA licenses the millions they save will go towards more domestic spy systems , next one will be domestic drones to patrol the motorways ,roads ,and streets .
1 drone can replace many police officers and vehicles .
Drones can scan all of the vehicles on a motorway for tax ,insurance,mot ,or banned , they can also scan for clone registration vehicles as all late registered vehicle will have emitter chip sets !




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