Temeika Clay couldn’t understand why her car insurance premium shot up 80 percent.

The Henry County, Georgia, resident did some digging and obtained the LexisNexis credit report for her Chevy Camaro. The credit report revealed GM had collected data about her driving tendencies and made the information available to insurance companies.

“Never did I imagine [my car] would be spying on [me] and sending information about [my] driving habits. That’s just unbelievable,” Clay told WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Clay’s LexisNexis documents revealed her vehicle’s OnStar system tracked her acceleration, high speed, and hard brake events. The documents revealed GM provided the information to data brokers, who then passed it along to insurance companies. A GM spokesperson told WSB OnStar Smart Driver data is no longer being shared with LexisNexis or data analytics company Versick.

“There are a lot of ways cars collect our data now, and it’s nuts. We don’t even think about it,” said Jen Caltrider, director of the Privacy Not Included project at Mozilla. “Cars are an absolute privacy nightmare and it kind of snuck up on all of us.”

Caltrider and her researchers reviewed 25 car brands in 2023 and found every one collected “more personal data than necessary and uses that information for a reason other than to operate your vehicle and manage their relationship with you.”Caltrider’s team listed dozens of categories car makers can collect about you, including mobile device locations, financial account numbers, billing information, IP address, physical characteristics, and even information about your sexual orientation and sexual activity.

“The amount of data the car companies said they collect really had our eyes popping,” Caltrider said. “When we started looking into it, we realized cars collect way more data than they need to collect to get you from point A to point B safely.”

According to Caltrider’s research, 84 percent of the car brands they researched “share or sell your data.” Caltrider’s team also found car makers can collect voice recordings, route history, biometric information, vehicle speed, use of the accelerator, and information about braking habits.

“Asking consumers to try and find and read the privacy documentation, I can tell you from experience as a privacy researcher, it was nearly impossible,” Caltrider said. “Knowing when your car is transmitting data and having a way to shut that down could void your car’s warranty, so there aren’t a lot of great options for consumers. That’s why I think we’re way past time for a strong consumer federal privacy law.”

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in February, urging regulators to investigate the data privacy practices of auto manufacturers.

“With new advances in vehicle technology and services, automakers have been vacuuming up huge amounts of data on drivers, passengers, and even individuals outside the vehicle,” Markey said. “Automakers face few, if any, limitations on the collection, use, and disclosure of this data. Consumers are often left in the dark. I therefore urge the FTC to investigate the automakers’ data practices and take all necessary actions to protect the privacy of all road users.”

Iskander Sanchez-Role, director of Privacy Innovation at Norton, said the danger associated with this kind of data collection includes data misuse and breaches.

“The collection and transmission of sensitive driving data raises the risk of a data breach. If hackers gain unauthorized access to this information, they leverage this personal information to perform personalized phishing attacks that could lead to identity theft or other privacy violations in the future,” Sanchez-Rola said.

Sanchez-Rola recommends car owners use Vehicle Privacy Report to learn more about the information their car maker is collecting. Cyberbit CEO Caleb Barlow said it is vital for car owners to “scrub” and restore their vehicles to a factory setting before selling or trading them in.

“Remember, your car knows as much about you as your phone does. When you go to sell, you’ve got to wipe all your data off that car,” Barlow said.

  1. May 24, 2023Enter the vehicle identification number, or VIN, and a list appears with all the data that a particular vehicle collects and shares with the automaker or third-party vendors. They are details like who you are, where you’ve gone, biometric details collected by the car’s microphone and camera, and data from your phone like call records, text …
  2. Use your vehicle’s phone system with caution. “Don’t download contacts to the car’s phone system, and turn off the phone’s Bluetooth connection to the car when you exit,” CR says. Skip automated tolls if you can. Turn off your cellphone and remove the battery. Even if the phone is off, location data is still being transmitted, CR says.