7 min read

Driving and Privacy: How Your Car is Impacting Your Data Security

As technology advances rapidly, our vehicles are becoming more connected than ever. From GPS systems, to internet connectivity, high-tech features are becoming standard in almost all new models on the road. While these features can certainly enhance the driving experience, they also raise concerns about data privacy. Most people consider the personal data stored in their phone or computer, and how to protect it, but rarely do we ever think about protecting the data our vehicles store about us. In this blog post, we'll explore how your car is impacting your data security and what you can do to protect your privacy on the road.

Amie-Lynn Mitchell

Product Marketing Manager

So - you’ve set up two-factor authentication, use a VPN and choose unique passwords to protect your data. Great! But have you ever considered that your vehicle collects your personal information as well…? What do you do to protect this data?!
With the increasing prevalence of internet connectivity and high-tech features in modern vehicles, it's more important than ever to consider the impact on your data privacy. In this blog post, we'll explore the various ways in which your car is collecting data, the risks to your privacy, and what you can do to protect yourself. Stay tuned to learn more about driving and privacy in the digital age. It may be unnerving, but it's important to understand that your car is constantly collecting data about your driving habits and more. This can include information about your location, speed, and the route you take to get to work every day.
Some cars even have the capability to record audio or video inside the vehicle. This technology can track where you are looking and if you keep your eyes on the road. This data is often used for marketing purposes or to improve the car's performance, but it can also potentially be accessed by hackers or third parties. In addition to the data being collected by the car itself, you may also be using your car as a hub for other connected devices, such as your smartphone or smartwatch. This means that any personal data on these devices are also at risk of being compromised if the car's data security is not up to par. 
“Automakers have nearly 100 years of experience making cars physically safer, in the event of a crash, but relatively little experience making cars digitally secure, in the event of a hack. It’s an entirely new frontier.” - The Globe and Mail

What kind of data is collected?

  1. Location data: This includes information about the location of the vehicle, as well as the route taken by the driver.

  2. Speed data: Vehicles can track the speed at which the driver is traveling.

  3. Acceleration and braking data: Vehicles can track the acceleration and braking patterns of the driver.

  4. Steering data: Some vehicles are equipped with sensors that can track the movements of the steering wheel.

  5. Vehicle performance data: This includes information about the performance of the vehicle, such as fuel efficiency and engine temperature.

  6. Infotainment system usage data: Many vehicles are equipped with infotainment systems that allow drivers to access music, navigation, and other features. These systems can track what features the driver uses and how they are used.

  7. Vehicle sensor data: Many modern vehicles are equipped with a wide range of sensors that can collect data about the surrounding environment. This includes data about the weather, road conditions, and other vehicles on the road.

  8. Driver behavior data: Some vehicles are equipped with sensors and cameras that can track the behavior of the driver, such as how often they look away from the road or how often they use their phone while driving.

  9. Imported data from devices: contact lists, phone call history, images, and texts can be collected and stored by vehicles. 

How do vehicles collect personal data?

There are several ways in which personal data can be collected by vehicles. One of the most common is through the use of telematics systems, which are essentially onboard computers that gather data about the car and its surroundings. This data is often transmitted wirelessly to a central server, where it can be analyzed and used for various purposes. Telematics systems can collect a wide range of data, including information about the car's location, speed, fuel consumption, and maintenance needs. Some systems also have the capability to record audio or video inside the vehicle, which can raise concerns about privacy. When a driver enters their vehicle, a network of sensors begin to output data points that are sent to the vehicle's computer. It collects information such as who is sitting where, the internal cabin temperature, if any windows are open, and if the vehicle has begun its journey. These data points are processed by the car's computers and sent back to the servers of the automaker via cellular radio.
In addition to telematics systems, personal data can also be collected through the use of connected devices. For example, if you use your smartphone or smartwatch in your car, these devices can transmit data about your location, activity, and personal preferences to the car's computer system. Apps, social media, and navigation systems collect a wealth of information about us every day; this information may be critical to our daily lives and is often used to benefit us. However, it can be used against us if our privacy is not respected. 
While driving, it's safe to assume that most users have their devices connected to the internet. It allows easy access to navigation systems and information about destinations and nearby businesses. However, this also means that our devices connect to Wi-Fi and cellular networks. This information is usually encrypted when transmitted to and from our smartphones, but it is still possible for hackers to intercept information sent over the internet. Hackers can do this through various techniques, such as using "cellular sniffers" that capture signal traffic and collect information.

What do vehicles do with this data?

The personal data collected by vehicles can be used for a variety of purposes. One common use is for marketing and research. For example, car manufacturers may use data about your driving habits and preferences to improve their products or to develop targeted marketing campaigns. Insurance companies may also use data about your driving habits to adjust your premiums or to offer you customized coverage.
In addition to being used by the car manufacturer or insurance company, the data collected by your vehicle may also be shared with third parties. This could include companies that provide services or products related to your car, such as repair shops or roadside assistance providers. It's important to note that the data collected by your car is not always under your control. In some cases, it may be accessed by hackers or other unauthorized parties, which can pose a risk to your privacy. 
In conclusion, vehicles are capable of collecting a wide range of personal data about drivers, including location, speed, acceleration and braking patterns, steering movements, infotainment/telematics system usage, driver behaviour and personal driver data. Securing your vehicle-collected data might just be as important as setting up secure passwords or installing a security system on your house. Since there are no federal laws mandating these data-sharing practices, it's up to the consumer to protect themselves and their information. It's important for drivers to be aware of the data that their vehicles are collecting and to understand how it is being used.