Automakers Being Investigated for Consumer Data Privacy Violations; “These companies know more about us than we know about ourselves”

By B.N. Frank

“Surveillance Capitalism” has been increasing so much over the years that it eventually inspired the saying “Data is the new oil.”  Argh!  Meanwhile, experts continue to issue seriously scary warnings about privacy risks with all “smart” (see 1, 2, 3, 4), wireless (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and/or Internet of Things (IoT) devices and technologies.  In some states, legislators have passed laws to protect consumers as well.

From Ars Technica:

Connected car data privacy under investigation by California regulator

A 2018 law gives Californians the right to know what data businesses are collecting.

Jonathan M. Gitlin

How automakers make use of data collected by connected cars is coming under scrutiny in California. On Monday, the California Privacy Protection Agency announced that it will review the data privacy practices of connected vehicle manufacturers. The agency is empowered to do so thanks to a 2018 state law, the California Consumer Privacy Act.

“Modern vehicles are effectively connected computers on wheels. They’re able to collect a wealth of information via built-in apps, sensors, and cameras, which can monitor people both inside and near the vehicle,” said Ashkan Soltani, CPPA’s executive director.

“Our Enforcement Division is making inquiries into the connected vehicle space to understand how these companies are complying with California law when they collect and use consumers’ data,” he said in a statement.

Connected cars are fast becoming ubiquitous—it may well be impossible to buy a new car, truck, or SUV in 2023 that doesn’t have at least one embedded modem in it. In the mid-2010s, many OEMs saw dollar signs at the prospect of monetizing data collected by their deployed vehicle fleets, and unlike with cellphones, it can be hard or impossible to disable location tracking in one’s car.

“Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, geolocation is considered personal information. People have the right to say no to being tracked in their cars, but it is unclear if car companies are providing this right,” said Justin Kloczko, a privacy advocate at Consumer Watchdog. “These companies know more about us than we know about ourselves, and they’re the ones in control of our personal information, not us,” Kloczko said.

These fears are not abstract; class-action lawsuits have been brought against both Ford and data broker Otonomo, albeit unsuccessfully in both cases. And earlier this year, we learned that Tesla employees shared “highly invasive videos and images recorded by customers’ car cameras” from 2019 until at least mid-2022.

Jonathan is the Automotive Editor at Ars Technica. He has a BSc and PhD in Pharmacology. In 2014 he decided to indulge his lifelong passion for the car by leaving the National Human Genome Research Institute and launching Ars Technica’s automotive coverage. He lives in Washington, DC.

Another disadvantage to “smart”, wireless, and/or IoT devices and technologies:  they emit harmful electromagnetic and wireless radiation.  In fact, manufacturers are required to warn users about this.  Additionally almost 2 years ago, a U.S. federal court ruled in favor of organizations and petitioners that sued the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for NOT adequately protecting Americans from wireless radiation exposure (including 5G).   More recently one of the organizations petitioned the agency to comply with the court-ordered mandate!  Of course, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is supposed to protect Americans from exposure too, hence organizations are petitioning that agency to do its job as well.

P.S. Exposure hurts pets too!

Activist Post reports regularly about privacy invasive and unsafe technologies.  For more information, visit our archives.

Top image: Pixabay

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