Saturday, September 23, 2023
News A Study Found that Modern Cars Pose a Serious Privacy Concern

A Study Found that Modern Cars Pose a Serious Privacy Concern

Modern cars, touted as “computers on wheels”, have become significant privacy concerns due to excessive data collection and sharing practices.


  • All 25 car brands researched were flagged for questionable privacy practices, making cars the worst product category in terms of user privacy.

  • 84% of the car brands researched share or sell personal data, while 92% provide little control over this data to drivers.

  • Despite privacy concerns, consumers have limited choices and often cannot avoid the extensive data collection methods employed by car companies.


Modern vehicles, while boasting advanced technological features, have emerged as substantial threats to personal privacy. This was brought to light in a comprehensive study conducted by Jen Caltrider, Misha Rykov, and Zoë MacDonald. Car manufacturers have long promoted their vehicles as advanced “computers on wheels.”

Gigafactory Berlin | Photo: Tesla

Yet, the conversation around the implications of such advancements on user privacy remains under-discussed. As society voiced concerns over interconnected devices like smartwatches and doorbells, car manufacturers discreetly transformed their vehicles into formidable data-collecting entities.

GM Global Technical Center | Photo: General Motors

The study encompassed 25 car brands, all of which received a ‘Privacy Not Included’ warning label. According to the researchers, this startling revelation highlights cars as the most problematic product category every examined in terms of privacy. Here’s a breakdown of the concerns:

  1. Excessive Data Collection: Each of the researched car brands was found to harvest more personal data than required. Unlike other smart devices, cars offer a plethora of data collection avenues, from user interactions with the car to third-party sources like Google Maps. This extensive data can include intimate details ranging from medical records to driving habits.
  2. Data Sharing and Selling: Holding vast amounts of personal data is concerning, but what amplifies the worry is the sharing and selling of this data. A staggering 84% of the car brands openly admit to sharing personal data with other entities, including service providers and data brokers. Even more concerning, 76% of the brands confess to selling user data. Additionally, over half the brands can share user information with governmental bodies based on mere informal requests.

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  1. Lack of Data Control: A massive 92% of brands offer drivers little to no control over their data. Only two brands, Renault and Dacia, provide users the right to have their data deleted. The European Union’s robust General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) might influence this, suggesting that car companies might stretch their limits with data unless legally restrained.
  2. Uncertain Security Standards: Despite the critical nature of the information, it remains unclear if car brands encrypt the personal data stored in cars. Moreover, responses from the car companies about their security practices have been either vague or non-existent.

Aerial view of the McLaren Production Centre (left) and McLaren Technology Centre (right) | Photo: McLaren

The extensive research, spanning over 600 hours, concludes that consumers are trapped in a conundrum. Cars have become an indispensable part of modern life, but with the current landscape, users inevitably trade off their privacy for transportation. The challenge now lies in increasing awareness and urging car manufacturers to adopt more transparent and user-friendly privacy practices.

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