How to Protect Your Data Privacy with a Connected Car
Connected Cars represent the next era of capabilities on the road — all data about both your vehicle and others around you streamed continuously to the cloud and analyzed. Yet where there’s data, there will be malicious actors. How do you keep your Connected Car data private?
How Much Data Do Connected Cars Collect?
The answer varies from vehicle to vehicle, but ideally, our connected cars are monitoring our every move.
We’re conditioned by books and movies to see this as a bad thing, but this is no dystopian techno-hell — it’s the groundwork for a safer, brighter future of driving. 96% of automobiles today have a “black box” or event data recorder collecting data continuously.
A Connected Car can generate an incredible 25 GB of data every hour using over 200 sensors on board the vehicle. That data is used for real-time driver safety as well as to help automakers analyze overall driver behavior and fleet performance.
One of the primary benefits automakers are starting to advertise is the security of their Connected Car data. It needs to be safe against piracy and other privacy threats to keep drivers safe and prevent identity theft.
What’s the Risk?
Many drivers are unaware that data from their vehicles are at risk of misuse. The data collected by and stored in a Connected Car is not always encrypted or even protected by privacy laws.
Data on speed, acceleration, braking, seat belt use, and roadway markings are extremely valuable to law enforcement and insurance companies. Data on text messages and phone contacts, however, are vulnerable to collection without the owner’s consent.
In the majority of countries, it’s illegal for police to search vehicles without probable cause. That extends to your data as well. If the police want access to your data, they will need a warrant before they can download it.
The legal system has already concluded this in court cases. Should laws dating back to before the era of digital technology apply to today’s tech? If the police have access to a person’s phone contacts and text messages, should they be allowed to access more information than was originally specified in the warrant?
For instance: a warrant might allow an officer access to text messages. Does that refer only to the phone’s native messaging app or to apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and messages on Instagram and WeChat?
Manufacturers Claim Data Is Secure
In most cases, customers can reasonably expect that their information will be protected and private unless they expressly consent to share it.
That puts the burden of keeping data secure squarely on the shoulders of manufacturers. It requires a lot of trust on the part of the vehicle owners — will the brand have enough security measures in place to keep their data secure?
In addition to collecting car data for analytics, manufacturers also benefit from data collection features as an opportunity to upsell their cars with features like Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), which provide automatic braking to help avoid collisions. These systems add significant dollar value to sales (ADAS is expected to be a $67 billion market by 2025), so manufacturers have plenty of motivation to keep the data secure.
Roughly 20 carmakers have elected to build their own systems — security included. The strategy is to allow car owners to choose which data their vehicles collect and decide what manufacturers can do with it.
Make Sure Data Is Encrypted
The single best way to make sure your data is private and secure is through encryption. Auto manufacturers will need to introduce high-quality encryption into their vehicles to ensure this.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can encrypt data on board the vehicle and then send it over the airwaves, creating something akin to an “encrypted tunnel” for the data to pass through. This shields it from interception and misuse by cybercriminals — if they do snatch the data out of the air, it will be completely indecipherable to them.
Connected Cars are only going to grow more advanced as the years go on, and bandwidth for their data will increase as well. Inevitably, this means there will be more and more cases of data being stolen and misused against the owner’s wishes.
Manufacturers will need to take the appropriate measures to comply with data protection laws. VPN software is going to be a critical part of this moving forward to safeguard your Connected Car’s data from third parties.
Tip 1: Select What You Share
Ideally, customers and vehicle owners should be able to completely control their own data, allowing the user to grant permission to share the data. For example, if your auto insurer wants access to your car’s data, you would be able to select what data they see — perhaps speed, braking, and other pertinent driving metrics.
Another example of good data to share in your EV is the battery level and location, which will help ensure you find a nearby EV charging station.
Tip 2: Make Data Anonymous
Called “deidentifying” data, this is a technique that shares useful data without sharing the identification of the driver or vehicle. For instance, if you are parking using an app, it would share your location but remove the vehicle identifiers.
Tip 3: Choose Manufacturers with Good Track Records
Your auto manufacturer’s in-house security system will ultimately be the determining factor of how safe your data is. Be sure to research your manufacturer’s history with data privacy to help guide your decision of which EV to buy!
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