You probably know that your smartphone and laptop store a lot of your personal data, such as your photos, messages, passwords and browsing history. But did you know that your car does the same thing?
Your car can collect and share a lot of information about you, such as where you go, what you say and how you feel. According to Mozilla research, most cars sold in the U.S. today are “privacy nightmares on wheels” that collect huge amounts of personal information.
This data is gathered by sensors, microphones, cameras and the phones and devices you connect to your car, as well as by car apps, company websites, dealerships and vehicle telematics. And if you don’t wipe your car’s data before selling or trading it in, you could be putting your privacy and security at risk.
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Your vehicle collects and shares a lot of information about you. (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson )
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What kind of data is your car collecting?
The amount and type of data your car collects depends on the make, model and features of your vehicle. Some of the common data points include:
- Vehicle identification number (VIN)
- Mileage, speed, fuel level and oil life
- Tire pressure, engine temperature and battery status
- Brake, steering and acceleration patterns
- GPS location, destination and route
- Voice commands, phone calls and text messages
- Media preferences, playlists and contacts
- Biometric data, such as heart rate, blood pressure and stress level
Some of this data is essential for your car’s proper functioning; some is useful for enhancing your driving experience; and some is sensitive and personal, such as biometric data, phone calls and text messages.
The amount of data your vehicle collects depends on the make and model. (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson )
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How is your car sharing your data?
Your car can share your data in different ways, depending on the technology and the agreement you have with the manufacturer or service provider. Some of the common methods are:
Cellular: Your car can send data over a cellular network, either using its own SIM card or your smartphone’s connection. This is how some cars offer features like remote start, emergency assistance or navigation services. However, this also means that your car can send data to the manufacturer or other parties without your knowledge or control.
Wi-Fi: Your automobile can connect to a Wi-Fi network, either at your home, workplace or a public hotspot. This can allow you to download software updates, access online services or stream media. However, this also means that your car can upload data to the cloud or other servers without your consent or awareness.
Bluetooth: Your car can pair with your smartphone or other devices via Bluetooth. This can enable you to make hands-free calls, play music or use apps. However, this also means that your car can access data from your devices, such as your contacts, messages or photos, and potentially share them with others.
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USB: Your vehicle can read data from a USB drive or device that you plug into it. This can allow you to play media, update software or transfer files. However, this also means that your car can copy data from your USB drive or device and possibly share it with others.
Vehicles can read data from a USB drive or device you plug into them. (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson)
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3 big risks of your car’s data being collected and shared
Your car can reveal a lot of information about you, such as where you live, work, shop and travel.
1. It can also expose your personal and professional communications, your media tastes and your health status. This data can be used by third parties to profile you, target you with ads or discriminate against you.
2. Your car can be hacked by malicious actors, who can access your data, take control of your vehicle or cause damage or harm. This can happen through various means, such as intercepting your wireless signals, infecting your devices or exploiting your software vulnerabilities.
3. Your car can be owned by someone else, who can access your data, monitor your behavior or limit your choices. This can happen if you lease, rent or share your car or if you sell or donate it without properly wiping it.
Your vehicle’s data can be hacked. (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson )
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How can you protect your car’s data and your privacy?
There are some important steps you can take to protect your car’s data and your privacy, such as:
- Make sure to erase all your personal data and settings before selling or trading it, such as the infotainment system, the companion app and any third-party service. In each of them, look for an option to delete your information, log out of your accounts and unlink your vehicle.
- When buying a used car, be sure the previous owner removed their connected account and performed a factory reset.
- Only give access to your data to trusted third parties
- Always use strong passwords and set up two-factor authentication for apps and services that connect to your car.
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- When connecting a mobile app to the car, minimize the amount of data collected by this app. You can use iOS or Android settings to limit the data collected by your phone.
- Disable or delete any apps or accounts that you don’t use or trust.
- Opt out from your mobile device’s location sharing.
- Do not use Amazon Alexa in your car if you are concerned about Amazon collecting that voice request information, IP address and geolocation information and using it to target you with advertising.
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Before you buy or lease a car, find out what data it collects. (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson)
Kurt’s key takeaways
Your car is more than just a mode of transportation. It is also a data collector and a data sharer. While this can offer you some benefits, it can also pose some risks. Therefore, you should be aware of what your car knows about you, how it shares that information with others and how you can protect and erase it from prying eyes, especially before you sell, donate or trade it in.
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