Guide for data privacy for connected cars

The automotive industry is helping car owners understand how their personal data is used in a new publication, ersonal Data In Your Car. This new publication that shows what kind of data is collected in cars how nearly all leading automakers have committed to protecting consumer information by committing to the Automotive Privacy Principles. These Principles guide privacy practices in the automotive industry. They went into effect beginning with model year 2017 vehicles and for subscription services beginning on January 2, 2016.

The guide warns:

“It is important to review and understand the privacy policies of the company that manufactured
your vehicle, as well as any third party with access to your vehicle data (through an OBD-II “dongle,” in-car “app,” or otherwise). These policies serve as the main legal mechanism regulating use of your data. You may have the right to “opt-out” or request that some information not be gathered,or if gathered, not be shared. However, opting out may limit the functionality of some of the features available to you.”

It also outlines data that can be collected:

  • Event Data Recorders – EDRs record technicalinformation about a vehicle’s operation in the seconds before and after a crash.
  • On-Board Diagnostic Information –  The information the OBD-II port can be retrieved by physically inserting a compatible device into the port.  Accessible information may include driver behavioral information (how fast you drive, how aggressively you apply the brakes, etc.) as well as geolocation data (where you are, where you have traveled, and your speed).
  • Location Information – The location of the vehicle and the destination may be collected by your navigation and related systems in order to route you to your destination.
  • External Information – Modern vehicles may contain cameras and sensors that are used to gather information about your car’s immediate surroundings. These sensors can detect road or weather conditions, lane markings and obstacles, surrounding traffic, and more. Key technologies that rely on this external environmental information include blind spot detection, lane-departure warnings, assisted braking, and rear-parking detection.
  • In-Cabin Information – Many of today’s vehicles also contain sensors in the vehicle cabin. Microphones, cameras, and other devices may record information about vehicle occupants. These sensors may be required to communicate with emergency services or to utilize features such as hand-free telephone use.
  • User Recognition – Some systems recognize users by physical characteristics such as a fingerprint or face, and therefore may have physical, or biometric, information about users. Biometric information can also be used to determine who is behind the wheel and adjust systems accordingly. For example, rather than requiring that you press a seat position button, the seat may adjust automatically after your face is recognized by a sensor located in the vehicle. These technologies can also track eye movement to detect a driver’s attention in order to determine if a driver is falling asleep behind the wheel.
  • Apps – Your vehicle may include interfaces with third-party systems like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or other services. Your vehicle may also allow an interface between the applications on your phone and your vehicle. Be aware that if you  nable apps provided through these interfaces or use apps on your phone that interact with your car you may be exposing data from your car to those third party app providers. These providers have their own policies about what information they gather and what they do with that information. Consult their privacy policies for further information.
  • Other – Vehicle manufacturers and their technology partners are constantly updating and improving your automobile. The sensors, features, and data gathered today are likely to be much different tomorrow. Make sure you work with your dealer to fully understand your car’s features, and the data it gathers to
    provide them.

The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) is providing Personal Data In Your Car  online and at the Washington Auto Show. The Guide will help consumers understand the kind of personal information collected by the latest generation of vehicles, which use data to further safety, infotainment, and customer experience. The Guide will be made available to consumers by FPF, NADA, automakers, and dealers in order to explain the kinds of information that may be collected, the guidelines that govern how it is collected and used, and the options consumers may have.

Today’s vehicles come equipped with a wide array of equipment and features that rely on the collection and use of data about consumers and their vehicles. These new features support a range of technologies that enhance safety, efficiency, performance, convenience, and entertainment. The Guide describes several components that are integral to properly protecting consumer data. For example, services that collect and share personal information should be accompanied by a clear privacy policy. The reality is that yes, cars are starting to know more about you, but what it knows may save your life.

The two major automaker trade groups voiced support for the Guide, with CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Mitch Bainwol saying, “We’ve long said that strong consumer data privacy protections are essential to maintaining the trust of our customers, and our Privacy Principles were a major step in protecting personal information collected in the vehicle.  Efforts like this FPF/NADA guide are an important part of helping drivers – and others – understand the many steps automakers take to safeguard data.”

As vehicles become more connected, it will be increasingly important to communicate with consumers how their information is collected and shared. For further information about technology in the car, consumers should contact their local dealer and review their vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Read Personal Data in Your Car.