Is Your Car Spying On You?
Your car is definitely listening to you and recording your moves—but what is it doing with this information?
Modern cars need between 1,000 and 3,000 chips, which came to our attention as a result of the global chip shortage. These chips make your car more like a computer. If you’ve locked your keys in the car recently, you know that some car manufacturers have apps that can be used to remotely unlock your vehicle—which saves time, money and maybe even lives—but what works for us may also work against us. Although it hasn’t happened outside of a research setting, your car could be hacked, and someone could take over your steering wheel, speed and locks.
Your car is constantly listening, collecting and recording information on you, and in a world full of smart everything—televisions, kitchen appliances, speakers—there’s no question that the internet is spying on us. The more apps you use for ordering groceries, saving money on gas, budgeting and even meditating, the more you’re being tracked.
“If you use CarPlay, for example, then Apple has a record of everything you’re doing in your vehicle, and the same is true with Android,” explains Jean-Paul Schmetz, digital privacy expert and CEO at Ghostery, a company that provides privacy-focused products.
What kind of information could your car have stored about you?
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Your car knows your name, home and work addresses, garage door codes, phone number and email, as well as where you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going. Cars with microphones and cameras collect voice recordings, and all the data from devices you connect to the vehicle is also collected, which means your text messages, call records, mapped locations, etc.
“All the apps you use in the car collect their own information about your habits and activities—like Apple or Google Maps, Spotify, etc.,” Schmetz says. “Unlike on your desktop or mobile browser where you can install specific ad-blocking or anti-tracking software, it is very difficult to block your personal data from leaving the car, so the best thing you can do is go into the settings of all the apps on your devices and manually remove your consent for collecting and using your information.”
How is this information used?
The truth is, we don’t know exactly how our information is being cataloged and used. “You need to operate under the assumption that the data your car collects about you will be used in a variety of different ways you cannot control or remove consent from later on,” Schmetz says. “This data is often sold to advertisers but could also be sold to insurers or other third-party businesses that may have interest in it.”
How do I delete my data from my car?
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Deleting the data your car collects isn’t as simple as wiping your information off your iPhone. “You’ll need to find the right setting in the maze of ‘Menu’ items that allows you to remove your consent to be tracked and hope manufacturers respect that choice,” Schmetz says. “There’s no benefit for the manufacturers if you do this, so be prepared to not find a ‘Do Not Collect’ option easily available.”
- Jean-Paul Schmetz, digital privacy expert and CEO at Ghostery