Cars or Spies? The Disturbing Privacy Concerns of Modern Vehicles
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Move over, intrusive smartphones and watches! Connected cars have now taken the dubious honor of being the worst product category for privacy, according to Mozilla's recent study of 24 car brands.
Mozilla, the organization behind the open-source Firefox browser, disclosed alarming findings on Sep. 6. Their research indicated every car brand they examined gathers more personal data than required and utilizes it for purposes beyond vehicle operation and customer relationship. Shockingly, 84% of these cars either sold or shared this data.
In terms of security, not a single one of the 25 studied cars met Mozilla's Minimum Security Standards, chiefly due to the lack of encryption for personal data stored in car systems.
Compared to other product categories Mozilla has reviewed for data privacy, such as mental health apps, cars displayed astonishingly poor privacy adherence. The data cars are amassing is vast, including details about passengers, nearby pedestrians, and data from connected devices like smartphones.
Notably, several car brands, including Cadillac, GMC, Buick, Chevrolet, KIA, and Nissan, gather genetic data. Disturbingly, Nissan and Kia claim to deduce details regarding a user's "sexual activity."
Here's a snapshot of Mozilla's findings:
- 84% of car brands admit to sharing personal data with various entities.
- 76% have privacy policies that allow them to sell personal data.
- 56% might share personal details with the government without a formal court order.
- A whopping 92% don't give all drivers the right to have their data deleted. Only Renault and Dacia, from the same parent company, grant drivers this privilege.
- Toyota holds the record for the most extensive privacy policies.
- Six car companies claim they can collect genetic details.
- Remarkably, Mozilla spent 600 hours on this study – thrice the time they typically allocate for a product.
Among all, Tesla stood out for all the wrong reasons. It failed in every evaluation area, from data use to AI. Notably, it was branded with an "untrustworthy AI" tag by Mozilla, especially pertinent given the recent controversies surrounding its AI-powered autopilot system. However, on a brighter note, Tesla does commit to not selling or renting personal data to third parties. Despite this, they emphasize the necessity of connectivity for their vehicles' functionality, implying that opting out of data collection might render a Tesla car almost nonfunctional.
In this digital age, privacy is a growing concern, and these revelations about connected cars serve as a significant wakeup call for both consumers and manufacturers.
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