Connected cars: what personal data is being tracked?

There’s a growing interest in connected cars, but how safe is our data? A new survey reveals that information ranging from location to driving style is being collected — and there are no specific regulations on handling all this personal data.

FIA Region I, a consumer organisation that represents 111 motoring and touring clubs across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, examined two vehicles to find out exactly what data new vehicles are able to track and transmit. Its investigation revealed that some connected cars can gather:

  • The car’s last 100 parking locations;
  • Destinations entered into the GPS navigation system;
  • Length of time in different driving modes;
  • Number of times the seatbelt tightened, e.g. due to sudden braking;
  • Contact data from mobile phones.

This data can be transmitted back to the manufacturer.

Yet a survey of 12,000 people in 12 European countries showed that 90% of respondents believe that vehicle data belongs to the owner or driver of the vehicle. Citizens were most concerned about the disclosure of private information (88%), commercial use of personal data (86%), and vehicle hacking and vehicle tracking.

An overwhelming majority of 95% agreed that there was a need for specific legislation to protect their rights to their vehicle and driver data.

Thierry Willemarck, FIA Region I president, said: There is a clear disconnect in what is being tracked and what citizens are willing to accept when it comes to car data. Not only strong data protection, but informed consent and free choice of service providers need to be addressed. Connected cars are already on the market, tracking and able to communicate private information about consumers. Now is the time for policymakers to take a strong stand and defend consumers.

MEP Evelyne Gebhardt added: Consumers have a right to know what data they are sharing when they drive their car. Currently, only vehicle manufacturers have access to this data. Europeans deserve to control their data and to which service provider they choose to share it with. They also must have the possibility to shut off communication.

From April 2018 all new vehicles sold in Europe will be connected as they will have to be fitted with eCall, a system that automatically communicates its exact location and direction of travel to emergency services in the event of an accident.

To do that, the system will need to be continuously monitoring the car’s position and have a mobile data connection, Computerworld pointed out.

Based on its recent findings, FIA Region I and its members across Europe are launching the My Car My Data campaign to raise public awareness on vehicle data and to call for privacy legislation and a fair after-market for connected vehicle services.

For more on connected vehicles, the legal and regulatory issues around driving automation, and what urban mobility might look like in future smart cities, download our latest white paper Smart cities in Europe: The future of urban mobility.

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