High-tech cars are “collecting reams of data” on drivers, allowing automobile, GPS and auto device companies to keep tabs on a driver’s every movement and sell data to highest bidder, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer warned today.
The senator is calling on the Federal Trade Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to establish “clear, robust guidelines to ensure privacy behind the wheel,” requiring carmakers to notify drivers when they are being tracked and allow drivers to opt out completely from sharing information.
Automobiles are now “collecting reams of data on where Americans drive” and are rolling out new technology that will enable vehicles to collect even more data, Schumer said in a press release issued Sunday. While the senator praised the “potential positive safety implications” of technological advancements — many of which are required by the federal government, he said — he warned that vehicle-collected data is being sent to third parties without drivers’ knowledge.
“New technologies being embedded in cars should only be used to make us safer, not as a way to intrude on the privacy of hundreds of millions of drivers without their permission,” Schumer said.
“Cars are ‘smarter’ than they have ever been, and they will only continue to get smarter as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Cars are now able to track where we shop, where we eat and where we go on family vacations, but drivers should be able to go about their daily lives without being tracked,” the senator said.
During last month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, many carmakers revealed new technological enhancements that they are embedding in cars. These advancements include: automatic crash preparation, black boxes, smart-phone-like operating systems, dashboard apps, etc. Schumer praised the potential positive safety implications of this new technology – many of which are being required by the federal government – but warned that the data that is being collected by the influx of technology is being sent to third parties without drivers’ knowledge. This data could eventually be sold not just to traffic-information providers but to advertisers and businesses looking to more accurately target consumers, Schumer said.
The Senator is urging the FTC and NHTSA to work together with the auto industry – and other companies that track vehicular data – to establish clear guidelines around what can and cannot be tracked, and to provide clear opt-out opportunities for drivers.
“Cars are ‘smarter’ than they have ever been, and they will only continue to get smarter as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Cars are now able to track where we shop, where we eat and where we go on family vacations, but drivers should be able to go about their daily lives without being tracked. That is why I am calling on the FTC and NHTSA to work with the auto industry to implement clear guidelines on this tracking and enforce an opt-out for drivers, so that we can all feel a sense of privacy behind the wheel.”
According to a December 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office, the collection of location data by carmakers and developers of ‘smart-car’ technology is a widespread practice. The report revealed that 90 percent of the companies studied (9 out of 10) share the data they collect with third-party companies. In some of these cases, the data being shared is personally identifiable and has not been scrubbed in a way that would make it unidentifiable with a particular car or driver. The GAO report also concluded that carmakers’ privacy practices around how they use the information their cars generate were unclear and make it difficult for drivers to understand privacy risks associated with driving.
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