The automotive industry has seen significant advancements in technology over the years, with new cars equipped with a wide range of high-tech features. However, with these advancements come questions about driver privacy. Ivan Drury, the director of insights at Edmunds, a car site, highlighted the fact that many of these features are data dependent. Whether it’s through a built-in computer or a GPS service on your phone connecting to your car systems, new vehicles collect various types of data about users that can be shared and sold to third parties.

According to a report by Mozilla, a data privacy advocate, the majority of reviewed car brands share personal data with external service providers, data brokers, and other unnamed parties. In fact, 76% of consulted brands admitted to selling customer data to third parties. Theresa Payton, the founder of cybersecurity advisory firm Fortalice Solutions, described the current state of data collection in the automotive industry as the “Wild, Wild West.” She highlighted the challenges that consumers face in navigating the balance between finding a budget-friendly car and their privacy concerns.

Despite the challenges, there are steps that consumers can take to protect their privacy when shopping for new cars. One approach, recommended by experts, is to engage with the dealership to learn more about the brand’s data collection practices. Consumers can inquire about privacy policies, the ability to opt-in or opt-out of data sharing, and the option to remain anonymized. Additionally, seeking insights from service managers at the dealership or consulting with auto insurance providers can shed light on data collection practices.

Car owners who are concerned about data privacy can take concrete steps to safeguard their information. For instance, owner’s manuals often provide instructions on how to delete personalized data from a vehicle’s onboard computer. Online tools like Privacy4Cars can further assist users in removing personal data stored by automakers. While isolating and removing specific components may disrupt certain features, dealing with integrated systems, like CPUs, poses significant risks and challenges.

Drivers who prioritize privacy concerns over high-tech features can explore older, used cars as an alternative. However, it’s essential to recognize that older vehicles may come with their own set of risks, given the lack of modern safety features. Payton emphasized the role of onboard computers in providing critical safety alerts and features, cautioning against disabling these systems entirely. Despite the appeal of older cars for privacy-conscious consumers, newer vehicles’ integrated systems make it challenging to entirely isolate or remove data-collecting components.

The rapidly evolving landscape of high-tech cars brings to light significant privacy risks for consumers. By staying informed, engaging with dealerships, and leveraging available tools, car shoppers can take proactive steps to protect their privacy in an era where data collection and sharing are becoming increasingly pervasive in the automotive industry.


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