When you hear the word car, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it your current car? Or a dream car you would like to drive one day? Maybe a cool commercial you have seen on the TV or on the internet recently.
I bet, that among your first thoughts aren’t things like data collection, cyberspace protection, marketing, or even hackers.
And why am I actually talking about this?
In recent months, there is a huge push from governments from over the world towards data security and user privacy. Just look at what had happened to Facebook and their famous scandal with Cambridge Analytica a few months back. Mark Zuckerberg even ended up giving testimony in front of Congress.
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At the end of 2019, the founders of Google Sergey Brin and Larry Page stepped down. One of the reasons besides the restructuring of the company was too many security issues. And after the GDPR was introduced in European Union Google had to adjust its privacy policies so they are more transparent.
Recently even Donald Trump has challenged the tech giant Apple to unlock their devices. So the secret services can have access to all the data they want. Luckily for us, there are people like the CEO of Apple Tim Cook who is against such things.
And how is this connected to cars and car manufacturers?
We live in times where technology is a big part of our day-to-day life. We buy devices that track our every step. While browsing on the internet and submitting to cookies the website owners are collecting countless amounts of data. When walking on the streets cameras with facial recognition algorithms are watching us.
And now, even while driving a car the producer is collecting data about you. Are you surprised? You always thought that driving a car is just a basic activity and no one is watching? You are wrong.
There are hundreds of data collected by your car. Some of them might be really shocking.
Your car is collecting data. What kind of?
So let’s start with the basic data like the location. When you use internal navigation, your car records every journey. If you enter your home address it will learn where you live. When you enter the address of your work, it will simply learn where you work.
And if you think you can outsmart it, don’t waste your time. Not entering an address will still not stop the car from tracking your location. The car has a built-in GPS sensor and it simply learns from your driving routines.
Thanks to this option your car can even learn about your favorite drive-through restaurant, coffee shop or petrol station.
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Now let’s see what else the car knows about you.
Some cars have a weight sensor that knows how much a driver weights. And what for? Thanks to this info the car recognizes how many people are driving the car. If the driver is only one, it will record the weight of that person. Actually it will know if you gained or lost weight faster than you.
Other things that cars know about you are your driving preferences. For example, how fast you drive or your breaking habits. Or if you like to push your car into its limits or you are a calm driver on the other hand. And for sure it will not be surprising that the car knows if you are wearing a seat belt or have the lights turned on.
Mercedes Benz – B sends data to the servers every 2 minutes. Among the data are location and the current technical status of the vehicle.
Also, the cars know how often you put petrol in, how many km (miles) you drive on average, if you drive in the city, in the village or on the highways.
The best part though happens when you connect (pair) your phone with your car. The car immediately collects your music preferences and contacts. And when your car reads your text messages or emails to you, it immediately stores them.
Tesla pushed the data collection even further and installed an interior camera in the Tesla Model S. They say that they want to see how the driver behaves during driving. More concretely, how often the drivers are distracted and the eyes are not following the road e.g. checking the phone, watch or a billboard beside the road.
And if you wonder why the manufacturers need those data, the answer is very simple. All these data are collected in order to create a detailed user profile.
Wha are the risks of data collected in your car?
First of all the biggest risk is privacy. In the European Union, the data collected by cars are the property of their owners. This is due to the GDPR policy. On the other hand, many car manufacturers work together with insurance providers and car assistance companies. If they have access to the car and track the location or technical condition of the car, those data are theirs.
Last but not least, not all the car manufacturers are transparent about the data collection. Some of them can “borrow” the data to third-party marketing companies to create more powerful campaigns and ads. These ads are then more precise and targeted towards specific users.
The worst-case though is when the data are sold to third-party without the knowledge of the car owners.
The biggest risk in real-life tough is the owner’s security. If a hacker can get access to the car and track the location, it will be super easy to crash into the house of the owner and steal. And that’s not the worst thing that could happen.
As you see data are collected everywhere. Even your car knows about you more than you would ever think.
The main question still remains. Is it ok to do that? Should the car manufactures, marketing agencies or even social media companies know everything about you?
Can the car manufacturers protect the cars from being hacked and the owners from being robbed?
I would say that it is ok to do that. Until the owners have full transparency, access to the data and the use of it. And the car manufacturers can guarantee the safety of the car owners.