50% of new vehicles are connected and 95% are expected to be by 2030
Connected cars can be controlled and located online or via an app
Previous owners can still control the vehicles they sold if they haven’t uninstalled the app on their phone
Connected features in cars are not new, but they are becoming increasingly popular, with 50% of the new cars sold globally being equipped with some form of connection to the internet.
This can pose a threat to privacy, since it can be very easy to locate and even control some vehicles without their owner’s consent.
This is especially true of cars equipped with a phone app that works as a remote to allow locking and unlocking the doors, as well as starting the engine remotely.
Since many of those apps offer a localisation feature, this means that anyone with access to the app can find the vehicle, unlock its doors and start its engine.
Obviously, this is problematic for multiple reasons. Indeed, the localisation feature can allow strangers to find out where the owners live, where they work, when they are away from home and even where their children go to school.
Of course, if a malicious person gains access to this app via hacking, this could have disastrous consequences, but there is a different and much easier way for owners to have their privacy breached.
The biggest problem with these systems is that the access to the app is not revoked when the vehicle is sold, meaning that if a previous owner hasn’t uninstalled the app from their device, they still have full control over the vehicle, which is now being driver by a new family.
Even worse, these features work via the internet connection, meaning that they can be used from anywhere around the globe.
Radio-Canada exemplified this problem when the previous owner of a 2017 Cadillac Escalade contacted them. The Quebec resident forgot to remove the app from his phone after having sold the vehicle, and he later realised he could still control his previous vehicle, which had since been sold to a family in Saint-Louis, Missouri, more than 2,000 kilometers away.
The current owners where quite shocked when the team of journalists, with the help of the previous owner, remotely started the engine of their SUV from Canada.
General Motors, and other automakers, say that uninstalling these applications are the responsibility of the previous owner and that this is stated in the terms and conditions that have to be agreed to in order to use the app.
Obviously, this leads to situations like these, where the new owners have no idea they are being watched by people they don’t know, who could have malicious intent.
In order to prevent this from happening, buyers of used connected vehicles should always contact the service provider for the app in order to have the account of the previous owner deactivated and replaced by their own, since this isn’t done automatically by the dealers.