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Automakers secretly collect your data and sell it to data brokers

Automakers are secretly collecting detailed driving data from internet-connected vehicles and sharing it with data brokers and insurance companies.

cars on the highway using gps
Image: Unsplash

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Major automakers like GM, Honda, Kia, and others are secretly collecting detailed driving data from their customers’ internet-connected vehicles and sharing it with data brokers and insurance companies, The New York Times reported.

And here’s the kicker – many drivers have no idea it’s happening.

Companies like General Motors, Kia, Subaru, and Mitsubishi have established partnerships with data brokers such as LexisNexis and Verisk to collect “real-world driving behavior” from over 10 million vehicles, according to a LexisNexis news release.

This data, which includes info on hard braking, speeding, and acceleration, is then sold to insurance companies to determine premiums.

While some drivers opt into usage-based insurance programs, others are unknowingly enrolled when they enable certain features in their cars’ connected apps.

G.M.’s OnStar Smart Driver, for example, is touted as a way to “help you become a better driver,” but the fine print reveals that it shares data with third parties.

The Fallout

Drivers are feeling betrayed and blindsided by these practices. One Chevy Bolt owner saw his insurance jump 21% despite a clean record.

A Cadillac driver in Florida was denied coverage by seven insurers after they accessed his driving data.

“It felt like a betrayal,” Chevy Bolt owner Kenn Dahl told The New York Times. “They’re taking information that I didn’t realize was going to be shared and screwing with our insurance.”

The Pushback

Policymakers are taking note of these concerning practices. California’s privacy regulator is investigating automakers’ data collection, and Senator Edward Markey has urged the FTC to do the same.

“If there is now a collusion between automakers and insurance companies using data collected from an unknowing car owner that then raises their insurance rates, that’s, from my perspective, a potential per se violation,” Markey told The Times.

How to Check If Your Data Is Being Collected and Shared

  1. Review your connected car app settings:
    • Open your app (e.g., OnStar, UVO, Starlink) and look for settings related to data sharing, privacy, or driver scores
    • If you find any opt-ins for data sharing or driver monitoring, consider turning them off
  2. Request your data from automakers:
    • Visit your automaker’s website and search for “privacy request form”
    • Follow the instructions to request a copy of the data your car has collected about you
  3. Request your data from data brokers:

For those feeling overwhelmed by the task of delving into privacy settings and contacting data brokers, there’s an easier way to take control of your personal data. Incogni is a service that reaches out to a wide range of data brokers on your behalf to remove your identifying personal data.

They work alongside consumer privacy advocacy groups to promote better data privacy laws and provide users with a dashboard to easily track the removal statuses of their data and receive regular progress reports.

Taking charge of your privacy doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Start protecting your data with Incogni today.

Incogni - Personal Information Removal Service

Incogni is a helpful tool that helps companies from sharing your personal information without making it feel like a chore. Incogni is the MVP for folks looking to clean their data off the internet without breaking a sweat or the bank. Not to mention cut down on the amount of spam calls.

Check Availability

The Bottom Line

While usage-based insurance can encourage safer driving, the lack of transparency around these data-sharing deals is deeply troubling. Automakers and insurers are cashing in on our personal data, and most of us are none the wiser.

Regulators need to pump the brakes on this shady practice. But until that happens, for now, maybe think twice before enabling that “driver score” feature in your car’s app.

Have any thoughts on this? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Kevin is KnowTechie's founder and executive editor. With over 15 years of blogging experience in the tech industry, Kevin has transformed what was once a passion project into a full-blown tech news publication. Shoot him an email at kevin@knowtechie.com or find him on Mastodon or Post.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Wadhamite

    March 11, 2024 at 6:58 pm

    Many cars have wireless sensors in tires to advise of low air pressure. Any idea whether this data could be collected and sent anywhere? Also, to what extent are license plate scanning devices collecting data without driver consent and sending it to data brokers? And, please tell us who is paying for all this!

    • Kevin Raposo

      March 11, 2024 at 8:36 pm

      Hi there! Thank you for your question, it’s a great topic to explore.

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