A government report finds that major automakers are keeping information about where drivers have been — collected from onboard navigation systems — for varying lengths of time. Owners of those cars can’t demand that the information be destroyed. And, says the U.S. senator requesting the investigation, that raises questions about driver privacy.
The Government Accountability Office in a report released Monday found major automakers have differing policies about how much data they collect and how long they keep it.
Automakers collect location data in order to provide drivers with real-time traffic information, to help find the nearest gas station or restaurant, and to provide emergency roadside assistance and stolen vehicle tracking. But, the report found, “If companies retained data, they did not allow consumers to request that their data be deleted, which is a recommended practice.”
The report reviewed practices of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. It also looked at navigation system makers Garmin and TomTom and app developers Google Maps and Telenav. The report, which didn’t identify the specific policies of individual companies, found automakers had taken steps to protect privacy and were not selling personal data of owners, but said drivers are not aware of all risks.
The agency said privacy advocates worry location data could be used to market to individuals and to “track where consumers are, which can in turn be used to steal their identity, stalk them or monitor them without their knowledge. In addition, location data can be used to infer other sensitive information about individuals such as their religious affiliation or political activities.”