HomeKnowledge BasePrivacy Concerns in Smart Cars, What Current Data Says?

Privacy Concerns in Smart Cars, What Current Data Says?

From your Washing Machine to your Home and now even your Cars are getting Smart (i.e., Connected to the internet). While it is excellent as it reduces human interference to make our lives easier, it might end up in a privacy nightmare. 

You might think we are paranoid, and to an extent, yes, but we have some experience with data privacy and the things that can go bad, so let us share some of our concerns regarding Smart Cars.

According to us, Smart Cars started gaining momentum once Tesla launched the Model S in 2012. Since then, most manufacturers have tried to hop on the bandwagon of including intelligent features on their cars. Here, we are talking about cars that can use the internet using the built-in eSIM or via a smartphone’s hotspot/tethering.

There are many ways your car can collect information about you, according to ExpressVPN. Let us delve into specifics.

  • Location Tracking: We are far more dependent on online maps than before. This allows our car to pinpoint our location directly.
  • Traffic Patterns: If you are a Google Maps user, you know they show traffic data on maps. Cars can also be used to predict traffic data and patterns even more accurately than what Google collects using smartphones.
  • Biometric Data: Many cars have started using fingerprint and facial scans to unlock the car with any keys.
  • Cameras: Most cars nowadays have at least one rear camera, and the modern & expensive ones use multiple cameras for driving assist and other features.
  • Voice Recognization: Cars have microphones and can detect who is talking and what they are talking about. It is similar to the concerns expressed over Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Homepod.
  • ECU & Driving Data: All modern cars have ECU, and it contains almost all the data related to the car. Frequent ECU updates to ensure that your car runs efficiently. It also collects other data related to your driving.

Top Privacy Concerns in Smart Cars

1. Personal Details

This will sound similar to what we are usually concerned about while using the internet. Your car knows several details about you, including but not limited to Name, Phone Number, Car Registration, Driver Registration, etc.

2. Location Data

A minor data breach can reveal your live car location to malicious intruders if your car is connected to the internet. They can also check the specific routes that you drive around along with the everyday schedule that you might have. For some individuals, this might be a severe security breach, primarily for wealthy & powerful individuals.

3. Biometric Data

If your car uses biometric unlocking, all the data, whether a deep facial scan or fingerprint, are stored on your car or in their cloud. Leaking of such sensistive data can cause a significant issue.

4. Voice Data

We already talked about biometrics, but it also includes your voice data. Cars may also record all the conversations you have while driving, along with the passengers and the calls you may attend while driving.

5. Smartphone Data

Cars usually allow smartphones to connect and sync the data. Usually, it is through Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. This data shared with the car usually includes notifications, contacts, app data, and many other things. How it is stored and managed is still debatable by many experts.

A Justification for Our Concerns

As per the research that we have done here at techrrival.com, no specific set of regulations mandates the car manufacturer to adhere to. Cyber attacks on these automobiles can lead to catastrophic consequences, especially when we consider the cars that can control multiple things from steering, brakes, accelerator, and more.

As per the research of Mozilla Foundation“Cars Are the Worst Product Category We Have Ever Reviewed for Privacy.”

Some astonishing facts caught our eyes:

  • All of them collect too much personal data
  • 84% of them sell or share the collected data
  • 92% of them give the owner little or no control over their personal data
  • Couldn’t confirm if they meet Mozilla’s minimum security standards
  • They reviewed most car manufacturers, including BMW, Fiat, Ford, Jeep, Volkswagen, Tesla, Honda, Kia, and Hyundai.
  • Tesla was ranked worst for privacy. (Surprising Right?)
  • Nissan & Kia apparently also collect information about “Sexual Activity.”
  • Six Companies apparently collect “genetic characteristics.”
  • They may share collected information with government or law enforcement

What you can do about it?

As sad as we are to write this, you can do nothing at least not now. This category is relatively new, and it may take a couple of years for the government and regulations to catch up with the privacy concerns regarding smart cars.

The worst thing about this is that all of this can easily be prevented if the car manufacturer provides the owners with an opt-out feature like we have on our smartphones. Lack of Choice is the biggest challenge.

And we are sure that car manufacturers will do nothing to address these concerns; you know why? Because most people buy cars based on mileage, appeal, reliability, and the basic commute.

Moreover, brands like Tesla allow users to opt out of data collection. But that will also turn off OTA updates, remote services, mobile application interactions, location searches, internet radio, voice commands, and web browsers. No one will want to do that. This does not sound like a user’s choice; coming from a brand like Tesla leaves us disappointed.

Also read: 5 Best Browsers for Privacy & Security You Should Try

According to this article, “Starting July 2024, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (UNECE WP.29) will mandate multi-layered cybersecurity solutions for automotive OEMs and their supply chains, covering development to customer-use, with non-compliance potentially shutting down production.”. This sounds like a good start and eventually the countries across the globe will follow.

Only thing we can do is hope for the best. 

“As an Amazon Associate & Affiliate Partners of several other brands we earn from qualifying purchases.” [Read More Here]

Mehul Boricha
Mehul Boricha
Mehul Boricha is the driving force behind Tech Arrival. He is a computer and smartphone geek from Junagadh, Gujarat, India. He is a Software Engineer by Education & a Blogger by Passion. Apart from technology geek, his free time is dedicated to cybersecurity research, server optimization, and contributing to open-source projects.

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