Car companies have admitted they are selling your private data. Companies like Stellantis were looking to cash in on data collected from its connected vehicles – but recently we’ve learned they’re in discussions to offer you an “opt out” on data packages from its vehicles to service providers.

This is only because drivers pushed back, your messages were heard. The carmaker heard you wanted to have consent on where they use your data. But this fight is far from over.

If you actually read the fine print on any of these Terms of Service contracts for the connected car apps, it’s horrifying. The quantity of data that is being collecting, and what they can do with it, would keep anyone from signing up for that “service” if they actually read it. Companies want to be able to track your location, direction of travel, and speed without restriction and for free? Plus the in-car audio recording they can do (as we mentioned recently in the Kill Switch Infrastructure Bill). This scary stuff.

You don’t sign these agreements at the dealership. No one will hand you paperwork and confirm you understand what you’re agreeing to before you click confirm. You buy your car, go to use one of the integrated services like the built-in apps, radio, maps, wifi, autonomous driving features, phone connectivity, etc. a screen pops up and asks you if you agree to their terms of service or you can’t use that service.

But nobody reads these super long agreements and many times you would need an attorney to understand them. We just want to use the vehicle and all of the great features you paid for.

The problem is that you agree to hundreds or possibly thousands of pages of legalese saying you have no privacy in your car, and the car company and their service partners own all your data, and sell it. They make huge amounts of money doing this.

You can opt out! If you can figure out how. Some services have a tight time limit before they automatically activate after a short period of time – like a week. Again has anyone ever done that. It’s buried deep in the service agreement that is rarely if ever read by the end user.

What about Apple CarPlay? I have far more faith in Apple’s information protection than I do in SiriusXM, who partnered with Guardian, a new company that no one really knows about. These companies hope people will assume it’s part of their satellite radio service, but it has nothing to do with satellite radio. You can call SiriusXM and get the radio service without this extra security service, but most people don’t know that.

Android Auto and Google based devices are even worse for protecting your privacy. Consumer have no alternatives live Brave or Duck Duck Go browsers when it comes to connectivity.

I hate that the term “Orwellian” has been used to the point of losing its impact. But, it really is the only way to describe what’s going on with modern technology.

Volvo outlined on its quarterly earnings call last month that its main competitive advantage going forward will be its superior ability to monitor the activities of the drivers. They are installing more powerful computers, more powerful cameras, microphones, and other sensors to detect your activities in greater detail, and they view that as their number one profit center going forward.

GM’s OnStar has two separate systems that tracks many GM vehicles. Any GM product with the Global B computer architecture (like the C8 Corvette and most new Cadillac’s) are gathering incredible amount of data about the car and it’s driver and are constantly connected to the internet to upload that information.

This Global B system cannot be turned off and allows GM to monitor and even disable your vehicle. In the case of a vehicle crash your data is automatically sent to GM including things like speed, braking, your reaction time, and even the location of vehicles around you.

It was implemented to protect GM in the case of lawsuits, but that info can also be requested by insurance companies and the government. GM even performs AI analysis on thousands of data sets to show how self-driving (Super Cruise) and automatic driver assist software features will make cars safer by tracking the number of traffic violations that drivers make and how drivers assistance software prevented possible crashes. Of course, they say this is for your own good. But isn’t that what they always say?

What worries me is assuming cars and companies have stopped monitoring us simply because we have asked them to by opting out. Really, how would we ever know? Just because you just declined a service, doesn’t mean they stopped collecting data. Car manufacturers and the service companies can still monitor all your activity.

To their credit, they tell you this in the fine print…that nobody reads.

As far as what the average consumer thinks; the first major story that breaks showing how a private individual was arrested, charged, convicted, and sent to prison entirely based on evidence from vehicle monitoring will wake people up. Until then, only the informed will see this coming.

I would like most people be concerned about their freedom, but most people need to see the reality before they wake up and speak out. Where are you on this? Let us know and share this with others. Knowledge is power!

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Lauren Fix, The Car Coach is a nationally recognized automotive expert, media guest, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host. A trusted car expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics and safety issues for both the auto industry and consumers. Her analysis is honest and straightforward.


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