Privacy Nightmare: Your Car Is Now the Creepiest Spy in Your Life
Carmakers are getting away with selling your most sensitive data, such as sexual activity and menstrual cycles, and we are powerless to stop it.
Nearly everyone has a digital footprint floating around online. No matter how savvy you may think you are, advertisers still have an idea of your age, gender, nationality, and interests.
But now data gathering isn't just coming from the pages you visit on the internet or apps you use on your phone. With the invention of smart devices like the Amazon Echo, Ring Doorbell, or the Apple Watch, you are more accessible than ever.
But, you can choose to buy these items since they really aren't necessary - they're luxuries. We don't really need them to get by.
Then Mozilla had to burst our bubble. No matter how careful we are, they found our cars are betraying us. They have become a goldmine of data - ranging from our driving habits to our sex drives.
Even worse, that data is being sold to third parties and we are absolutely powerless to stop it.
Cars are #1 worst for privacy
Can you believe it?
Researchers for the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation recently announced cars have a "F" in data privacy. In fact, they called them a "privacy nightmare." Out of a dozen product categories, cars were the absolute worst - beating out smart speakers, fitness trackers and, shockingly, dating apps.
Major car manufacturers are starting to make their vehicles more like a "computer on wheels," such as by including Bluetooth, navigation, or the ability to sync with your phone. The idea was vehicles go up in value if they offer more advanced features.
But it also is letting these manufacturers line their wallets with our private data. So forget about being spied on by Alexa or your smart fridge, the real thing to worry about is the menacing thing parked in your driveway.
Car brands quietly entered the data business by turning their vehicles into powerful data-gobbling machines. Machines that, because of their all those brag-worthy bells and whistles, have an unmatched power to watch, listen, and collect information about what you do and where you go in your car.
Researchers analyzed 25 different car brands to rank them from best to worst, but found they all collect far too much personal data.
In fact, they actually take more than is necessary since the information they take exceeds that of how we operate our vehicle.
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.
That really should concern you that your Jeep, BMW, Ford or Honda knows what turns you on - and I don't mean in a key fob sense.
We can't control this data collection, either
Mozilla found that a majority of cars don't allow customers the ability to control or delete their data. Only the manufacturers Renault and Dacia, who are owned by the same parent company, allow customers to erase their data.
No other car company offered that.
Then again, they are European manufacturers and the EU does have the General Data Protection Regulation privacy law in place. Unlike America.
In addition, it was found these carmakers weren't forthcoming with their security standards and left Mozilla guessing how they protect data once its collected. Is it encrypted? Stored in a safe server? Printed off and left in a file cabinet to collect dust for eternity?
The problem is, not even Mozilla's experts know and that should alarm you.
It also should make you nervous to think 68 percent of all the surveyed car manufacturers have recently dealt with leaks, hacks and breaches concerning their customer's information.
What do they do with your data?
This is where things get interesting. While our data is being used for these companies' ultra-vague "business purposes," not to mention research and marketing - a whopping 84 percent of carmakers say they do share or sell our information.
Who do they share to? That's a great question that not even Mozilla knows. But manufacturers say they can share collected data to service providers, data brokers and other businesses - whatever that means.
When it comes to making money off the data they
stole collected from us, 76 percent of respondents admit they can sell that information.
Additionally, Mozilla determined that 56 percent of these carmakers said they would share their collected data with the government or law enforcement without a court order.
In all, Mozilla says what carmakers do with their customers' data is "beyond creepy." They also say, "It has the potential to cause real harm and inspired our worst cars-and-privacy nightmares."
What cars are the best/worst?
Renault and Dacia were rated the two best vehicles for information privacy, but it was still a pretty low bar since they still collected plenty of dings.
BMW, Subaru and Fiat rounded out the top five.
As for the five worst vehicles, here they are in descending order:
Tesla was the only car to get a failing grade for its artificial intelligence. It is only the second product Mozilla has reviewed in its entire history to receive all their privacy "dings."
Moreover, Mozilla found something chilling about Nissan and Kia. In both their categories of data collection, they track their drivers' "sexual history." Additionally, six other carmakers collect "genetic information" or "genetic characteristics."
So if you have a period tracking app, chances are your car knows your cycle. Isn't that fun?
You can read more about how Mozilla's methodology HERE.
So... what now?
That's the problem: Not even Mozilla has a suggestion besides buying a car that's pre-digital.
This comes after researchers spent a whopping 600 hours to look into all these manufacturers' privacy practices. "That’s three times as much time per product than we normally do," they opined.
Aside from buying a car that is physically incapable of connecting to the internet and sending your data into the ether, the only other thing they recommend is sharing this information.
Seems that these manufacturers are counting on their customers to be unaware their cars are actively tracking their sex lives or fast food orders. The more people know about what's going on, the more voices will be channeled into demanding change.
Mozilla has since launched a petition that demands car companies do better and to stop mining and selling data they don't need.
Until then, turn off your phone's Bluetooth when in your car and listen to the radio instead of your podcasts and playlists.
To hear what's going on in the news, turn your dials to WIBX at 950 AM or 106.9 FM. But if pop music is your thing, Lite 98.7 has you covered. We also recommend country station Big Frog 104.3, classic rock titan 96.9 WOUR, or classic hits station 96.1 The Eagle to keep you going until these car companies learn to keep their noses out of our personal business.