As cars are increasingly equipped with more computer systems, they generate larger amounts of data. Moreover, more and more cars are constantly connected to the internet, sending this data back to the manufacturer, as reported by ESET Nordics in a press release according to Nyheder24.
The Potential Privacy Issue
Leif Jensen, a security expert and CBO at ESET Nordics, explains, "It's a potential privacy issue. As soon as data about you as a user of a product is collected and forwarded, it poses a risk. Data from your car can easily be used to recreate a driver's profile, including where they live, work, etc."
There are many benefits to cars collecting data about their use. This data can be used to improve the car and the driving experience. "But the cost is your privacy," points out Leif Jensen.
In addition to monitoring where and how you drive, newer cars can also track what music you listen to, whether you play on the built-in infotainment system, what movies you watch, and more. These data are forwarded to the manufacturer for further processing.
The Risk of Data Leaks
"What if these data are leaked?" asks Leif Jensen. For instance, in 2019, The Washington Post tested a new car and found that it generated up to 25GB of data per hour, including information about phone calls, driving style, and more – data that was sent back to the manufacturer.
"Of course, there are many good reasons to send data from the car to the manufacturer. It can improve the product and enhance safety. But even if the data are anonymous, they can contain so many personal and private details, especially now that cars also have cameras, and that's concerning," says Leif Jensen.
Data can be leaked, not intentionally, but through hacker attacks or accidents, and thus very private information can suddenly end up in the wrong hands.
The Risk to the Next Owner
"You also risk passing on private information and account details to the next owner of the car if you sell it, losing complete control over your personal information," highlights Leif Jensen.
He advises ensuring that the manufacturer anonymizes your data, commits not to sell your data, and avoids telling the car more about you than absolutely necessary.
"When you sell the car, remember to reset the car to factory settings – if you can – and delete all private data, as it's not always the case that data are deleted from the internal storage when resetting to factory settings," concludes Leif Jensen.