What Does Your Car Know about You?

Automotive technology has come a long way since the birth of the Ford Motor Company. Past advances have made driving easier, safer, and more convenient, while current innovations will make driving possible for the visually impaired, those with limited mobility, and more.

Unfortunately, with the new features and advances comes a whole new responsibility to protect our privacy, but that’s one area where the auto industry hasn’t quite caught up. If your car has an onboard navigator, whether installed or plugged in, your vehicle is a treasure trove of information about where you go on a day-to-day basis.

Depending on the model you use, your voice-activated in-car entertainment system may be storing your voice commands and requests, linking your voice patterns to your identity. If your vehicle reports back to the manufacturer or your insurance company about your driving habits, it’s possible that others can see your behind-the-wheel behaviors.

With so much privacy at stake just from one vehicle, you’d think there would be stricter regulations concerning consumer privacy, but so far, there’s a lot of grey area when it comes to who can access this data from your car and what they can do with it. One Canadian group, however, is working on developing the standards that will tell automakers what they must do to secure your identifying information, your personal history, and your behavior profile. For example, if your car “knows” that you drive to a specific part of town each Thursday, advertisers could want to know that in order to target you with merchandise offers. If insurance companies want to know how their drivers are doing without them knowing it, what’s to stop them from taking a peek at your car’s driving report and then basing their rates on that information?

To some consumers, those may seem like minor problems. After all, if you don’t want the ad, throw it away; if you don’t want your rates to go up, be a more cautious driver. But what if the information that was accessed wasn’t so harmless? What if the person who sees it wants to know what hours of the day you won’t be home, or wants to know which playground you take your young children to on Saturday mornings?

It’s this world of “what if” that we have to be prepared to protect against since privacy breaches can have serious, lasting consequences. And the only way to be prepared in this world of constant data harvesting is to preemptively look for scenarios in which our personal information can come back to haunt us, then be prepared to prevent those situations from coming up.

 

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