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Connected cars: Vehicles capture personal information of drivers

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WASHINGTON D.C. (FOX 5 News) -

 

By: Melanie Alnwick, FOX 5 News

What is someone knew everywhere a car had been? What is someone knew everywhere one car stopped, who the driver called and even what radio station the driver listened to?

Well now some cars are spilling those details about their drivers every single day.

Fox 5's Melanie Alnwick has the story, and there isn't much drivers can do to protect their privacy in these connected cars.

"I'm just a car enthusiast, love all the new technology. Love seeing all the new things they do from year to year," Wayne Chapman, car enthusiast, said.

When consumers are told what else the car can do, the reaction changes.

"It's definitely, in my opinion, an invasion of privacy," Curry Raw, another car enthusiast, said.

Another customer, Keisha Williams, said, "I feel a little violated now knowing that."

On-board communications systems, called "telematics," are quickly becoming standard equipment in cars.

A small, paperback sized unit taps into all of a car's electronic functions and sensors, as well as convenience and entertainment systems.

Through GPS roadside assistance and emergency calls know exactly where the vehicle is. A car can even warn a driver of an imminent breakdown or collision.

"Some of these technologies are wonderful technologies that I think we all like to have on our car," Lon Anderson, of AAA, said.

Yet, Khaliah Barnes, with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, warns that some very personal things can be revealed.

"If an individual is going to a certain political headquarters, if an individual is going to a certain medical clinic, if an individual is frequenting a certain address at certain times of the night. You can deduce certain information," Barnes said.

Who's getting the information?

The manufacturer, and all the companies it contracts with to provide the services.

"Apple and Microsoft are viewing the car as the next big frontier, and they're pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the development of apps and all kinds of things for it," Anderson said.

AAA argues that consumers should have more control over their personal information.

"Shouldn't you have that right to that data and the right to say what's happening to that data and where it's going?" Anderson said.

"The auto manufacturers are doing a poor job of explaining to consumers the level of detail they collect," Barnes said.

A government accountability office report found the companies aren't breaking any laws, but adds that the current rules are far behind the technology.

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