Your car spying on you might sound like a farfetched theory from a science fiction movie. There is nothing fictional about your car spying on you. Your car is akin to a computer on fur wheels, and it is continually sending streams of data about you to the vehicle manufacturers. This phenomenon is not new, but with the advancement of technology, the amount of information and privacy encroachment is growing by the day.
Over the past few years, car manufacturers have turned vehicles into products much like software; products you use and license, with the devil hiding in the details of the many terms and conditions. Car manufacturers have become like telecommunication companies who collect your data and sell to the highest bidders.
It is no secret that automakers collect data via onboard navigation systems. Companies track where car owners are, which can be used to steal their data, identity, or used to monitor their movements.
How your car is tracking you
Your car is tracking you in different ways, which is very unsettling. Surveillance technology in cars started with rental car companies who wanted to track their customers. This tracking started as a way of introducing more fees, reducing insurance costs, enforcement of contractual limits and gather information on their clients and their behavior.
When you rent a vehicle, you may have some options between various rental companies, each with their policies on surveillance. Ultimately, the car belongs to the rental company, and they have the liberty to install surveillance tools as they please. Some of the surveillance tools go beyond spying, and some might lock your rented car if you attempt to take the car out of the designated area. You have to pay a fine to gain access to the vehicle.
Your car records data such as:
How often you wear your seatbelt
With data from your car’s GPS and clock system, the safety alarm feature found on the seatbelt lets your car manufacturer know how often you use your seatbelt, as well as the areas you are most likely to strap the belts on.
Most modern vehicles are connected to the internet. It is easy for manufacturers to tell your music preferences from your Spotify or Pandora playlists, or the radio stations you tune in to.
Most modern vehicles can read your weight, and alert you when your seatbelt is not strapped on. These measurements are so specific that the system can tell the difference between a person and a heavy object on the seat.
How to stop your car from spying on you
Keep a low profile
Do not share any self-identifying information such as your social media status or publicize your location. Do not store your address or label it as ‘home’ in your vehicle navigation system. Instead, you can save the address of a general area and stay away from specifics.
Use the vehicle’s phone system with caution
Do not download any personal contacts to the vehicle’s phone system. Additionally, turn off the vehicle phone’s Bluetooth connection when you leave the car. If you have downloaded any contacts, reset the system to factory settings.
Remove the portable GPS
If your GPS is compact, remove it when you sell your vehicle. If you sell the car with the GPS, ensure you delete your old data from the device.
Short of driving an old car for the rest of your life, you cannot escape the fact that whichever car you buy, it will have surveillance tools. Unfortunately, there is no law stopping car manufacturers from installing these tools. The only way to keep safe is to keep a low profile on social media, do not input your exact home address, do not download contacts on your car phone system, amongst other things. The reality is that we need more stringent rules and transparency on surveillance. Most car manufacturers claim they do nothing with the data they collect, but you can never be sure.