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How to prevent your car from spying on you

Image Credits: UnsplashImage Credits: Unsplash
  • Modern cars collect extensive data on your location, driving habits, and personal preferences, which can be shared with third parties.
  • Review and adjust privacy settings in your car and related apps to opt out of data sharing.
  • Consider disabling communication modules and avoid syncing your phone to protect your privacy.

Cars have become more than just a means of transportation. They are now equipped with advanced features such as digital maps, GPS navigation, remote starting, and even voice control. While these features offer unparalleled convenience and safety, they also pose significant privacy risks. Your car can track where you go, how fast you drive, and even what music you listen to. This data can be shared with marketers, insurers, and potentially hackers, making it crucial to take steps to protect your privacy.

Many car buyers may not realize that by signing the papers for a new vehicle or using the carmaker’s phone app, they are agreeing to have their data collected. According to the Mozilla Foundation, car manufacturers have some of the worst privacy practices, collecting extensive personal information with little control given to the customers. Jen Caltrider, director of Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included program, states, “These are the worst of any category we’ve reviewed”.

Steps to Protect Your Privacy

Review Privacy Policies: Start by reviewing the privacy policies of your car and any related phone apps. Look for settings like "Data Privacy" or "Data Usage" and opt out of sharing data with third parties whenever possible. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recommends using tools like Privacy4Cars' Vehicle Privacy Report to understand what data your car collects.

Opt-Out of Data Sharing: Many car manufacturers allow you to opt out of data sharing. For instance, Toyota allows customers to waive their Connected Services, which stops the transmission of location, driving, and vehicle health data. Contact your car’s customer service to opt out of data sharing and request an acknowledgment in writing.

Disable Communication Modules: If you are not comfortable relying on the manufacturer to honor your opt-out request, consider disabling the Data Communication Module (DCM) in your car. This module connects the car to the cellphone network, and disabling it can prevent the car from transmitting data. However, be aware that this may also disable other features like the interior microphone.

Avoid Syncing Your Phone: Syncing your phone with your car can transfer a lot of personal data to the car’s system. Avoid syncing your phone to prevent this data transfer. Additionally, disable ad tracking on your phone to further protect your privacy.

Be Cautious with Apps: Some car manufacturers offer apps that provide additional features and services. However, these apps can also collect and share your data. If you choose to use these apps, carefully review their privacy settings and opt out of data sharing whenever possible.

The Need for Stronger Privacy Laws

Privacy experts argue that voluntary guidelines issued by the vehicle industry are not sufficient to protect consumers. Thorin Klosowski from the Electronic Frontier Foundation states, “Self-policing hasn’t been shown in other tech industries to be a reliable way for companies to operate”. There is a growing call for a federal privacy-protection law similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to provide stronger protections for consumers.

While modern cars offer numerous benefits, they also pose significant privacy risks. By understanding what data your car collects and taking steps to limit or disable this tracking, you can protect your privacy. Review privacy policies, opt out of data sharing, disable communication modules, avoid syncing your phone, and be cautious with apps. Additionally, support efforts for stronger privacy laws to ensure better protection for all consumers.

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