Lawmakers call out eight automakers for sharing connected vehicle data



It’s no secret that modern cars collect a stunning amount of data about the people who own and drive them, but the scope of that collection and what is being done with it might come as a surprise. Automotive News recently reported that eight automakers sent vehicle location data to police without a court order or warrant.

The eight companies told senators that they provide police with data when subpoenaed, getting a rise from several officials. BMW, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen presented their responses to lawmakers. Senators Ron Wyden from Oregon and Ed Markey from Massachusetts penned a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, urging investigative action. “Automakers have not only kept consumers in the dark regarding their actual practices, but multiple companies misled consumers for over a decade by failing to honor the industry’s own voluntary privacy principles,” they wrote.

Ten years ago, all of those companies agreed to the Consumer Privacy Protection Principles, a voluntary code that said automakers would only provide data with a warrant or order issued by a court. Subpoenas, on the other hand, only require approval from law enforcement. Though it wasn’t part of the eight automakers’ response, General Motors has a class-action suit on its hands, claiming that it shared data with LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a company that provides insurers with information to set rates.

Beyond insurance costs, lawmakers are worried that connected-car data could be used to identify people who traveled across state lines to get an abortion or treatment for addiction. Industry officials refute the lawmakers’ claims, saying that they only send data “under specific and limited circumstances, such as when the automaker is provided a warrant or court order or in situations where there is an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death to an individual.”  

Five automakers earned praise from the senators, including GM with its pending lawsuit. Honda, Ford, GM, Tesla, and Stellantis require warrants, except in the case of emergencies or with customer consent.



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