Today’s cars are complex machines comprised of tens of thousands of interconnected parts. Among those parts are microprocessors, broadband chips and sensors, designed to collect valuable information about the way a connected car operates and how its driver behaves.
All of this information is used to help connected cars function, but is the data utilized for anything else? And who has access to it? Those are important questions to answer, since many drivers are wary about sharing in the first place. A recent CARFAX study revealed that drivers are hesitant to share specific types of info, depending upon who is seeing it. Let’s explore the who, what and why of car data sharing.
What Data Is Collected?
Connected cars have a range of technology features designed to make driving safer and more convenient. Most of these are not standard offerings (buyers must opt for driver-assist packages); however, demand for these features is growing. The CARFAX study showed that while a small percentage of drivers considered driver assist as “must-have” features in their current car, when they go to buy their next car that demand will grow by 80 percent. Driver override features, such as automatic breaking, will see the “must-have” demand increase by 70 percent. The study showed a general overall positive view of technology, which means more connected cars on the road – and more collected data – in the future.
Depending on the car technology features you have, the data your car collects is used to help you avoid heavy traffic, stay in your lane, maintain a safe distance between vehicles, increase fuel economy and quickly notify 911 if you’re in an accident. However, that might not be all.
In 2015, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FiA), which represents auto and motoring clubs across the globe, conducted independent research to gauge how much information new vehicles are able to collect and share. Researchers found that the information gathered included driver profiles, vehicle location, maintenance details and trip length. Moreover, synced smartphones (think Bluetooth) also supplied manufacturers with personal information, such as contact details.
Who Sees the Data?
At present, all that data stays with the automakers and is not disclosed to third parties. This is good news, since drivers are hesitant to share with specific groups due to privacy concerns. According to the CARFAX study, 56 percent of respondents are not willing to share any data with app companies and 72 percent want to protect their data from advertisers. On the other hand, respondents were more amenable to other third parties: three out of four drivers were willing to disclose some level of data with insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers or law enforcement.
How Is the Data Protected?
Car manufacturers are sensitive to these consumer concerns. In fact, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Auto Alliance), which represents 12 car manufacturers, has issued automotive privacy principles enacted to reassure car owners about collecting data. The Auto Alliance bases its three hallmarks on such sources as the White House Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and the Federal Trade Commission.
The three principles are:
- Transparency: Automakers have pledged to be candid about data collection and promulgation. In particular, owner’s manuals and company websites are two sources where consumers may find policy information.
- Sensitivity: Utmost care for collecting information is of critical concern to consumers. Indeed, manufacturers say more sensitive information receives heightened protection. Information gathered is for legitimate business purposes only and retained only for as long as it’s needed.
- Limitations: Only under limited circumstances is information shared with government authorities; however, what those circumstances are and precisely what data gets shared isn’t clear. Consequently, ongoing consumer vigilance is recommended to ensure privacy policies get the job done.
Ultimately, connected car technologies serve as a harbinger of what is to come – namely autonomous vehicles. Driverless cars will add a layer of connectivity not employed today, specifically vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology. Truly, V2V will save lives as it keeps autonomous cars from crashing into each other, perhaps overriding whatever public concerns may persist over data sharing.
About the Author
Matt Keegan is an automotive writer for CARFAX, where you can access car tech news and search used cars for sale. He enjoys helping to educate drivers about data privacy in the age of connected cars.