Tag Archives: laws

Does Your Car Track Your Personal Information?

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:

  1. Poll students: Do they know what data cars are gathering about them? And what the companies do with this data?
  2. Show video: https://youtu.be/KJ2NmIhYIlA?si=tf993ioIl8xDyPHu
  3. 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/
  4. Divide students into teams. Have each team select an auto manufacturer and research the privacy statements made by the company.
  5. How does this present an opportunity for marketers?
  6. 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.

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More Electric Vehicles Make it to Market

There is no doubt that electric vehicles (EV) are seeing an increase in inventory and sales. Globally, electric vehicle sales doubled in 2021 and sales are still strong in 2022. In the second quarter of 2022, EV sales were 5.6% of the total auto market, up 2.7% from the same time a year ago. Consumers are embracing the EV market for its clean energy and solid performing vehicles.

Pricing remains a sticking point with consumers though as many EVs are priced in the range of $50,000 – $100,000 and up. Sure, consumers want to help the environment, but they also face a very real limitation on spending for EVs.

To help position it as a more general option, General Motors plans to release an EV Chevy Equinox in fall 2023 at the lower price point of $30,000. Today, there are few models of any type of EV below $35,000. Complicating the pricing, the costs of battery materials (such as lithium and nickel) have risen significantly. On average, U.S. buyers paid $66,000 for an EV, an increase of 28% from a year ago according to J.D. Power research.

The Inflation Reduction Act is one option to help consumers lower the costs. It offers up to $7,500 in federal EV tax credits, but only for models that meet certain domestic-production requirements. While both new and used cars qualify, there are other restrictions that can limit how much tax credit a consumer receives including income limits and vehicle list prices.

Are you ready to make the leap to an EV vehicle?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: What is their perception of pricing for EVs in today’s market?
  2. Have students research prices for EV automobiles and SUVs. Build a spreadsheet with information about select vehicles such as Volkswagen, Tesla, Kia, and Toyota.
  3. Have students research the Inflation Reduction Act for federal EV tax credits. What are the caveats?
  4. Show video from WSJ about the EV discounts: https://www.wsj.com/video/series/george-downs/the-climate-bill-unlocks-new-ev-discounts-but-not-everyones-a-winner/26F2FC57-3150-4311-AE3E-705E554AB4D6
  5. Another classroom discussion can focus on how the Inflation Reduction Act fits into an environmental scan for the EV market.

Sources:  Colias, M. (8 September 2022). GM courts mainstream buyers with $30,000 electric Chevy Equinox. Wall Street Journal.; Forbes growth sector: Electric vehicle sales and the new electric economy have arrived (24 September 2022). Forbes.

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Stolen Secrets: Trade Secrets and Corporate Espionage

Many students are surprised to find out that there is significant corporate espionage in America. Corporate espionage (aka corporate spying or industrial espionage) is the use of espionage techniques to steal trade secrets, intellectual property, proprietary information, marketing strategies and the like.

While students may think of corporations as stuffy places only filled with paper and computers, they neglect to consider the enormous costs (including time-to-market) that it takes to arrive at a unique product or service. And how much is customer information and sales worth? Plus, research and technology are serious expenditures and organizations pay hefty fees to protect their institutional knowledge.

One example is a chemist employed at Coca-Cola. She was recently sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing trade secrets related to a BPA-free coating for the inside of cans and selling them to a Chinese company. Were the secrets a big deal? Yes. The trade secrets in this case collectively cost about $120 million to develop.

Other cases include trade secret thefts worth an estimated $1 billion from a petroleum company, a securities firm robbed of $4.1 million, and lawsuits of trade secret thefts between multiple companies in the technology, beauty, and chemical industries.

Not all corporate espionage is as dramatic or damaging as this example. Many employees or former employees leave companies with proprietary information or customer data. And, as might be expected, Silicon Valley is one of the world’s most targeted areas for espionage. High tech industries in computer software, hardware, automobiles, energy, biotechnology, and more are frequently targeted by thieves.

How much is lost to corporate espionage? Well, estimates vary (and not all thefts are reported) but G4S, a British multinational security services company, estimates it in the trillions of dollars each year.

Watch out!

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the difference between laws and ethics.
  2. Ask students to define corporate espionage.
  3. What examples might students know about?
  4. What can be stolen from corporations that might be valuable? How much is that worth?
  5. Show video about corporate espionage: https://youtu.be/nwvwhM54uus
  6. Divide students into teams. Have each team do an internet search for corporate espionage examples. What happened, when, stolen, results, etc.?
  7. Have each team present their example.

Sources:  Ex-Coca-Cola engineer sentenced in trade secrets case. (10 May 2022). Associated Press.; Bloomberg News; other news sources.

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