Do you have any idea that your cars have the ability to collect and even sell your data to third parties? And yet, that’s exactly what most modern cars can do.
In recent years, carmakers have turned your vehicle from a product you own and control to one you merely use and license, much like software. The mechanisms of this are hidden between dozens of pages of terms and conditions.
Your rental care also have spyware!
Rental car companies were among the first to seize the opportunities from readily available surveillance technology to start car tracking their customers. This was driven partly by their interest to introduce new fees, reduce insurance costs, enforce contract limits, fight theft and gather data about their clients’ behavior.
Hertz went as far as installing microphones and cameras in their cars, although the company later insisted those were never turned on. Rental companies that fined their customers for speeding (with payments that went to the company, not the local government) were found in violation of the law.
When you rent a car, you might have some choice between different rental companies and their policies regarding surveillance. But ultimately, the company owns the vehicles and can install surveillance tools at will.
Some of these tools might even go beyond simple spying, such as locking your car if you take it out of a designated zone or off-road. The renter might then have to pay a fine to regain access.
Cars leased or financed can also be subject to agreements that allow car manufacturers or the leasing companies to scoop your private data. Mercedes-Benz was caught handing this data to bailiffs in cases where drivers were behind on their payments.
How to stop your car spying on you
While people do like buying smart surveilled electronics, surveys also show they care about privacy. Consumers have to be alert about smart car dangers and demand to be informed about their car’s capabilities and data policies.
Purchasing an older, used car without internet connection and cameras is always an option, too.
Eventually, we will either see car makers become more transparent about what they do or earn our trust in other ways.
We might see cars developing similarly as phones, for which the open-source operating system Android competes with closed-source Apple iOS. Android users are able to install their operating system themselves, while Apple users trust the manufacturer to respect their privacy.
In both cases, users often make the decision between opting in to draconian surveillance regimes and protecting their personal information.
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