When your car talks to your insurance

Monitoring our driving is now inescapable, connected cars have become smartphones on wheels and are an additional business opportunity for all brands, from offering optional equipment via subscriptions to selling the data generated by millions of customers to third parties. Should we be concerned about this new loss of privacy?

 

As technology advances, internet-connected cars are becoming an increasingly present reality in our lives. Car manufacturers argue that these vehicles with no physical buttons, giant screens and full of cameras and sensors that monitor our behaviour offer a ‘safer’ and more comfortable driving experience.

This ability to communicate with other vehicles, devices and services via the Internet also opens up new business opportunities for brands. Some car manufacturers have already tested the patience of their customers with monthly subscription models for heated seats, while others offer more power in exchange for an annual subscription or are charging a subscription fee for the most popular options.

Moreover, this interconnection allows vehicles to collect and transmit real-time data on driving habits, location and vehicle status, offering additional revenue potential for brands willing to sell this information, which may pose a threat to users’ right to privacy.

 

From theory to reality

A report by the Mozilla Foundation warned that connected cars are “terrible in terms of privacy and security”. Also, it highlighted that 25 of the most popular car brands collect without consent a large amount of data from their users, not only strictly related to driving, such as their place of residence or usual destinations, but also much more sensitive data, such as facial expressions, health status and genetic information or information about their sex life, all of this through connected devices, microphones, and cameras.

According to the study, 84% of the brands surveyed share or sell owners’ data and 92% give drivers little or no control over their personal data. Although all brands fail in data handling, Tesla scores the worst, while Renault, Dacia and BMW have the least bad scores.

Some called this report alarmist, yet a few months later, the New York Times reported that some brands were already sharing data on their customers’ driving habits with insurers and that “bad drivers” had already had their policies raised by as much as 21%, without ever having had an accident.

Kenn Dahl, a computer scientist from Seattle in the United States who drives an electric Chevrolet Bolt, obtained a report from LexisNexis. This New York-based data agency works with insurers, which recorded the 640 times he or his wife had driven the car in the last six months, with all the details, such as start and end times, distances driven, and all the times he went over 130 km/h, or when he did hard braking or hard acceleration.

All this data was collected and, above all, sold without Mr. Dahl’s knowledge. In this case, it was sold to insurance companies, but it could just as easily have been sold to other companies in any field.

 

Are we protected by European law?

European legislation on the processing of personal data applied to connected cars is based on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the ePrivacy Directive, which set out the principles and rights that have to be respected in the processing of personal data.

Among other obligations, data controllers have to inform data subjects about the use of their data, obtain their consent where necessary, ensure data security and confidentiality, minimise the amount and duration of data retention, and allow the exercise of the rights of access, rectification, erasure, limitation, objection and portability.

Basically, the same regulation that already applies to data processing and privacy on mobile devices, such as smartphones. That said, it is no secret that the devil is in the details, which is why experts always recommend that we carefully review the terms and conditions and only provide data or accept functionalities that provide real value, which is something we are used to when using a mobile phone, but which until recently was unthinkable to have to take into account every time we start up “our” vehicle.

 

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  1. Mercè ComasMercè Comas says:
    Mercè

    El que exposeu és molt greu, però davant de la “Seguretat”, paraula màgica, tot s’ hi val, inclús que amb tants sensors als conductors se’ls atrofiïn els reflexes i siguin incapaços de resoldre una situació de risc imprevista. Com a la vida mateixa, vaja.

    • Jordi CollJordi Coll says:
      Jordi

      Tal qual, Mercè, però no tot s’hi val… Moltes gràcies pel teu comentari!

      4 weeks ago

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