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Automakers Are Storing Your Driving Habits & Location Data

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On: Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 11:18AM | By: Elizabeth Puckett

Automakers Are Storing Your Driving Habits & Location Data

Automakers in the U.S. are using navigation and infotainment systems in millions of cars to track the habits and locations of the driver. Through these systems, the people who make your car can track your location, and monitor how long you’ve stayed at a place. According to a new government investigation, as your car’s owner there’s nothing you can do about it either.

A recently released report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals information gathered about Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. What their investigators discovered is that each company has a hugely different policy on privacy from the next when it came to tracking driving data.

One factor that did remain consistent across the board was that when companies did retain data, there was no way that a consumer could take action to have it deleted—something that might increase the ethics of data access by automakers.

The report did not specifically name which automakers had the “worst” policies concerning the matter. Investigators also looked into tracking policies of GPS makers like TomTom, Garmin, Google Maps, and Telvenav to learn more about their tracking policies.

Al Franken, a Senator from Minnesota and chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, made the first request for the report. Franken noted that auto companies have done a lot to protect the tracking data of their drivers, but he thinks more needs to be done.

In a statement made on Monday, the Senator said, “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.”

He continued, “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.”

Senator Franken also said that he has plans to introduce vehicle-specific privacy legislation before the end of 2014.

Your vehicle actually tracks your movements in more ways than you probably realize. In addition to data on tracking through GPS and infotainment systems, all cars now have black boxes that track crash data to piece together an accident. Data collected through this device can even be used as evidence against you in court. Many automakers even collect location data on people to market to them in realtime.

In the GAO report, the agency outlined that automakers need to do a better job guarding this information and they also need to limit the time the tracking information is stored.

GM has already come out to say they don’t store records of driver’s turn-by-turn navigation; no other automakers have responded at this time.


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