These three car companies are among the least invasive to privacy, and they still fail the test. (Source: Mozilla Foundation)

Car Companies Gather Private Info from Users, Sell It to Marketing Companies

A shocking report from the Mozilla Foundation describes an alarming insight into the ways car manufacturers are using their cars’ technology to spy on buyers by collecting data collected through car computer systems and apps. The information gathered includes everything from drivers’ medical issues to their sex lives.

In its newsletter, *Privacy Not Included, the Mozilla Foundation calls carmakers’ data collection through modern cars “a privacy nightmare.” Their report details exactly what information is being gathered:

“The ways that car companies collect and share your data are so vast and complicated that we wrote an entire piece on how that works. The gist is: they can collect super intimate information about you—from your medical information, your genetic information, to your ‘sex life’ (seriously), to how fast you drive, where you drive, and what songs you play in your car—in huge quantities. They then use it to invent more data about you through ‘inferences’ about things like your intelligence, abilities and interests.”

The report warns car users about the many invasions of privacy in a list:

  1. They collect too much personal data (all of them)
  2. Most (84%) share or sell your data
  3. Most (92%) give drivers little to no control over their personal data
  4. We couldn’t confirm whether any of them meet our Minimum Security Standards

Almost all car manufacturers, except for two—Renault and Dacia—don’t even give drivers the option of having their personal information deleted. It could sit in the car for future use, even if it’s not being used now. The worst of all of the car manufacturers was Tesla.

“Tesla is only the second product we have ever reviewed to receive all of our privacy ‘dings.’ (The first was an AI chatbot we reviewed earlier this year.) What set them apart was earning the ‘untrustworthy AI’ ding. The brand’s AI-powered autopilot was reportedly involved in 17 deaths and 736 crashes and is currently the subject of multiple government investigations.”

The Mozilla Foundation also looked into what drivers can do about this invasion of privacy. Their conclusion was not much because they’re all bad and they even punish car owners for opting out of some data collection by saying that they won’t send updates on other information that drivers may need. Here’s Tesla’s ominous opt-out warning:

“However, ‘if you no longer wish for us to collect vehicle data or any other data from your Tesla vehicle, please contact us to deactivate connectivity. Please note, certain advanced features such as over-the-air updates, remote services, and interactivity with mobile applications and in-car features such as location search, Internet radio, voice commands, and web browser functionality rely on such connectivity. If you choose to opt out of vehicle data collection (with the exception of in-car Data Sharing preferences), we will not be able to know or notify you of issues applicable to your vehicle in real time. This may result in your vehicle suffering from reduced functionality, serious damage, or inoperability.'”—TESLA’S CUSTOMER PRIVACY NOTICE

With that kind of control, the best thing to do, Mozilla says, is to sign a petition that starts the ball rolling to pressure car manufacturers to stop this practice, or to have lawmakers in Congress introduce legislation that regulates them.

Car companies are brazenly collecting deeply personal information about people the moment they get into a car, often without explicit consent to do so. And that’s why the Mozilla community is now coming together to force car companies to respect our right to privacy. Add your name to ask car companies to stop collecting, sharing and selling our very personal information.”

Here’s a link to the petition.