Privacy is a top concern of consumers. While on the one hand, we love it when companies can anticipate our needs and solve problems. However, on the other hand, we value our privacy and do not want to have our lives tracked by corporations. We realize that our online social media, shopping, and email communication can be tracked and we can act according to that knowledge. We still don’t want our privacy violated, but we understand the risk involved.
But… what about our cars? Huh, cars? Cars track our personal data? Yes. And not only do car manufacturers track a LOT of our personal data, they can also sell it – without our knowledge or permission.
As consumers, we expect companies to act in our interests when solving problems, but that is a common mistake. Corporations act in their best interest in the long run. Car buyers and drivers are given little or no control over all the personal data that cars track and collect. In addition, automotive security systems are also a concern when it comes to hacking.
Non-profit Mozilla Foundation researched 25 car brands to assess their security and data collection actions. None of the 25 car brands whose privacy notices were reviewed met even the minimum privacy standards. Furthermore, some automakers gather personal data not related to driving – including sexual activity, immigration status, race, facial expressions, weight, health, and genetic information. Additional data is gathered by sensors, microphones, cameras, and phones connected to cars.
What Mozilla found shouldn’t really surprise us. As car buyers, we don’t have many (if any) options as to the data the manufacturer can track about us when we’re in the car. Of the 25 brands, 19 of the companies’ privacy notices reviewed said they can sell our personal data. Half will share information in response to a “informal request” from government or law enforcement. Automakers were very vague about disclosing to whom they sell what data.
The worst three privacy violators cited by Mozilla were Tesla, Nissan, and Hyundai.
Who’s tracking you?
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Poll students: Do they know what data cars are gathering about them? And what the companies do with this data?
- Show video: https://youtu.be/KJ2NmIhYIlA?si=tf993ioIl8xDyPHu
- Show the Mozilla report: https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/privacynotincluded/articles/its-official-cars-are-the-worst-product-category-we-have-ever-reviewed-for-privacy/
- Divide students into teams. Have each team select an auto manufacturer and research the privacy statements made by the company.
- How does this present an opportunity for marketers?
- What could the company do to help protect the consumers’ privacy?
Source: Bajak, F. (11 September 2023). Analyst: Cars now ‘wiretaps on wheels.’ Associated Press.; Caltrider, J., Rykov, M., MacDonald, Z. (6 September 2023). It’s official: Cars are the worst product category we have ever reviewed for privacy. Mozilla Foundation.