Mobility Privacy Concerns in Connected Cars

Lots more services and features but at what cost for consumers' data privacy?

By Graham Jarvis

February 9, 2024

4 Min Read
Skoda ChatGBT Infotainment
More connectivity brings more threats to personal data.

With smart cities leading to increasing connecting of vehicles, infrastructure, public transport and virtually everything, some people are raising concerns about whether the technology could be used against them rather than to offer them benefits.

With increased connectivity can come increased tracking and the technology already exists to remotely drive vehicles or to geofence them to prevent them from going outside a defined area. Jack Palmer, senior consultant in Mobility at Frost & Sullivan, finds that some people are naturally technology-averse and concerned about privacy – particularly in more conservative countries. In those parts of the world it is possible to opt out, or even to refuse to opt into, any kind of connected services. More to the point, when someone starts a car, they are presented with the terms and conditions for using or subscribing to various services. That’ll include provisions for opting in and sharing data that will need to be transmitted to maintain and improve the offering. 

He explains: “If you were driving and needed your navigation to work, then you would need to sign in to get information on the weather, roadworks and traffic jams. It’s for the consumer to decide to opt in. Who’s going to give the most value: your phone or the embedded OEM services? For automakers, it’s about being consumer-centric and providing enough value for people to make an easy decision to opt in. They will otherwise be barred from this ecosystem.”

Consumer Consent

Dave Nemtuda, senior director, OEM product and business development at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, stresses that consumer consent is key. Yet, the experience that most customers have with automakers’ brands is often physical. Now, the automotive model is gradually evolving.

The company finds that 15% of consumers do not enroll in a free trial of connected services when offered by the dealer. The company says these results were consistent with what we saw in 2021. It adds, “The top reason, mentioned by the majority (76%) of the respondents, was that they did not see the benefit or the value of connected services (a 13% increase from 2021).”

Nemtuda says connected benefits include the ability to locate a car, locked, unlocked or started. To call for roadside assistance, automated collision notification and vehicle diagnostics. Over-the-air updates (OTA) include infotainment-related map or GPS information refreshes, audio updates, new app versions and streaming services, as well as drive-control-system updates such as feature upgrades and security patches related to advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

Talking Digital

Automakers are increasingly talking digital; they can’t afford not to; it’s the future. They need to offer an end-to-end digital customer experience, and customers demand that they are transparent about the benefits of the connected services they offer. It’s important to do this to keep up with the speed of change while handling customer data in a seamless and secure manner.

Nemtuda adds, “65% of consumers who participated in a survey conducted by LexisNexis felt more confident that their auto manufacturer was ensuring their personal information was being handled in a secure way if they had additional security actions or steps in their online processes.”

Legislation

Palmer points out that in Europe, consumer rights have never been stronger with GDPR. He elaborates: “Consumers are very protected compared to other regions, and fines have been issued. For example, in 2022 Volkswagen were heavily penalized for a GPDR breach linked to testing new vehicles. Consumers should be heartened by the fact the European Commission has acted on it. In the U.S. there is nothing like GDPR. It takes its cue from GPDR but not in law. Consumers don’t have the same rights.”

Now there is the European Data Act adopted in 2023. He says it’s expected to come into law by 2026. “It’s the sidekick to GDPR but while GDPR focuses on personal data, the European Data Act focuses on non-personal data.”

With this comes a headache: the need for automakers to have a mechanism for allowing access to machine-generated data. Palmer explains, “The idea is that it will level the playing field for third parties, in turn allowing them to create new products and services from the data.” This data needs to have a way of being transferred, and so he describes the new Act as being groundbreaking and he doesn’t believe anything similar exists elsewhere.

 

 

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