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Mozilla study finds most new cars are unsuspecting spy devices

The study’s basically a big neon sign pointing to the need for some serious privacy and security standards in the car industry

ring car camera
Image: Ring

Well, buckle up, folks. Mozilla’s *Privacy Not Included project just dropped a bombshell: Your car might be the ultimate snitch.

If you’ve got a car that rolled out of the factory in the last few years, chances are it’s hoarding a ton of your info. We’re talking about everything from your driving style to some seriously TMI stuff like your race, weight, and even your bedroom antics (no, seriously).

The project put 25 big car brands under the microscope, including the likes of BMW, Ford, Toyota, Tesla, and Subaru. Spoiler alert: They all flunked basic privacy and security tests for their internet-connected models.

The data these vehicles hoard isn’t just about how fast you drive or where you’re going. Nope, they’re also keeping tabs on things you’d never expect, like your facial expressions, health details, and even immigration status.

Car port with a solar panel
Image: Unsplash

Jen Caltrider, Program Director at the *Privacy Not Included project, pointed out that cars have gone from being our private cocoons to data-harvesting monsters.

Today’s cars are kitted out with spy gear like microphones, cameras, and links to our phones—the carmakers then cash in by selling or sharing this info with third parties.

“Many people think of their car as a private space — somewhere to call your doctor, have a personal conversation with your kid on the way to school, cry your eyes out over a break-up, or drive places you might not want the world to know about,” writes Caltrider, in a press release. “But that perception no longer matches reality. All new cars today are privacy nightmares on wheels that collect huge amounts of personal information.”

So, who’s the worst offender?

And the most significant snitch award goes to… Nissan! According to Mozilla, Nissan’s privacy policy is basically a free-for-all.

They’re collecting info on everything from your sex to your health and genetic data. And they’re not shy about sharing or selling this data to anyone, from data brokers to cops.

But other brands aren’t far behind. Volkswagen, for example, is keeping track of how you drive and using it for targeted ads.

Kia’s privacy policy lets it snoop on your “sex life,” and Mercedes-Benz has TikTok pre-loaded on its infotainment system (because who doesn’t want a side of privacy issues with their car?).

nissan vehicle in driveway
Image: Nissan

The study also raised some serious security questions, like whether these brands encrypt the data they’re collecting. Only Mercedes-Benz had anything to say about that.

The report also called out the shady practice of “privacy washing,” where car brands make it seem like they’re protecting your privacy when the reality could be a whole lot different.

And let’s talk about consent. Subaru thinks anyone who gets in the car is a “user” who’s okay with their data being collected.

Plus, many car brands are passing the buck to the driver to inform passengers about the car’s privacy policies. Toyota, for instance, has an insane 12 different privacy policies for customers to wade through.

So, to wrap up, the study’s basically a big neon sign pointing to the need for some serious privacy and security standards in the car industry. Because right now, our rides are turning into data-harvesting machines on wheels.

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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.

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