That fancy internet-connected car may have hi-tech conveniences but it may be collecting large amounts of data that's automatically sent to your car company.
This data includes location, speed statistics or even tiny details like how often you buckle your seat belt. As more and more connected cars are rolled out, this could be a potential privacy issue in the near future.
New research data is indicating that just about 20 percent of newer cars sold worldwide can now be connected to the internet. This percentage is expected to grow up to 75 percent by 2020. Currently, General Motors leads all automakers with approximately 12 million internet-connected vehicles by the end of 2016.
Benefits of car data sharing
This connected car and driver data collection is projected to become a big business and car makers are offering incentives to sweeten the deal. In exchange for the data, car makers can offer perks like free navigation systems or parking spot finders.
The data can also be used for essential notifications like calling emergency services when an airbag deploys or alerting the driver if the car is being recalled. Other benefits for data sharing may include lower insurance premiums and discount coupons for nearby businesses on a route.
On the flip side, insurance companies may require driving data to be monitored before they issue a policy. This could cause higher premiums for some drivers. Another downside will be advertising and unsolicited coupon alerts on each trip.
So far, there is no evidence of data sharing resistance from customers. Global consulting firm McKinsey and Company report that 79 percent of the 3,000 customers it interviewed in China, Germany and the U.S. do not mind sharing car data and 70 percent were even willing to pay for data collection services that will offer time-saving conveniences such as a parking spot finder.
Car data ownership
Data stored in a car's event data recorder, commonly known as a black box, is owned by the driver, says federal law. A court order or a driver's consent is needed before the police or insurance companies can access this data. Currently, though, there are still no laws governing internet connected-car data collection.
For now, under the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturer's voluntary principles established in 2014, 20 carmakers including GM, Ford, Toyota, Mercedez-Benz and Hyundai, agreed to get permission first before sharing a driver's location, health and behavior to third parties. However, this policy doesn't include data sharing with emergency services or internal research. This agreement is said to last until the 2017 models roll out.
Opting out of car data collection
According to Khaliah Barnes, a former director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, most car makers allow owners to opt out of data sharing but the details are buried within the fine print. Under the 2014 agreement, clear notices about data collection and sharing should be provided by car makers but this is not always the case.
General Motors manuals, for example, have sections about data storage but car owners have to access separate policies to learn more about what data is shared.
Other connected-car security issues
There are more security concerns about internet-connected cars going beyond privacy and data collection.
We recently reported about how researchers from Keen Security Lab hacked and took control of a moving Tesla, remote-commandeering various functions like windshield wipers, side view mirrors and even the brakes.
With internet-connected and self-driving cars looking increasingly to be the future of the automotive industry, the security of these systems from hackers and criminals will be as critical as ever. It's not just driver data and privacy that is at stake. Passenger safety is of utmost priority too.
Car data sharing's future
Right now, connected car service data fees are still expensive. These connection packages usually require monthly mobile internet fees similar to what smartphones have.
According to Mark Thomas, marketing head of Cisco-Jasper's connected car division, car makers will eventually drop these monthly fees in favor of monetizing it by selling the driver data to third parties. This implies that by offering free connected car services, more drivers will hopefully sign up and in turn, willingly share data.
What do you think about the future of connected-car data collection? Drop us a comment below.