Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Vehicle manufacturers and your privacy (what privacy?)


In a world where nobody seems to care about privacy any more, I suppose it's not surprising that a case about what I'd call an egregious intrusion into personal privacy has been thrown out.

A federal judge on Tuesday refused to bring back a class action lawsuit alleging four auto manufacturers had violated Washington state’s privacy laws by using vehicles’ on-board infotainment systems to record and intercept customers’ private text messages and mobile phone call logs ... the appellate judge ruled Tuesday that the interception and recording of mobile phone activity did not meet the Washington Privacy Act’s standard that a plaintiff must prove that “his or her business, his or her person, or his or her reputation” has been threatened.

In an example of the issues at stake, plaintiffs in one of the five cases filed suit against Honda in 2021, arguing that beginning in at least 2014 infotainment systems in the company’s vehicles began downloading and storing a copy of all text messages on smartphones when they were connected to the system.

An Annapolis, Maryland-based company, Berla Corporation, provides the technology to some car manufacturers but does not offer it to the general public, the lawsuit said. Once messages are downloaded, Berla’s software makes it impossible for vehicle owners to access their communications and call logs but does provide law enforcement with access, the lawsuit said.

There's more at the link.

I've warned about this before, but nothing ever seems to be done to control it, and it keeps getting worse.  Once you link your smartphone to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto or a similar app in your vehicle, your entire cellphone usage is open to scrutiny, downloading and analysis, whether you like it or not.  What's more, it's highly likely to be aggregated and sold to companies who want to use that data for targeted advertising.  Even the dealer who services your vehicle can download your cellphone data, if he has the right software - and a surprising number of them do.

Even worse, that happens when you rent a car as well.  If you link your phone to the rental vehicle, the rental company now has that access as well, as does anyone else who rents the same vehicle later and knows how to access the activity logs of previous renters.

That's why I never, ever link my cellphone to a vehicle's internal systems, no matter how convenient the latter may be.  A lot of us old farts value our privacy, and take what steps we can to safeguard it . . . although in this day and age, that's probably more comforting than effective.



Mind your own business said...

I'm not sure what this is telling us.

So just making the Bluetooth connection so you can use your phone hands-free in the vehicle opens up your cellphone messages etc. to the car manufacturers and law enforcement?

TRX said...

> Even the dealer who services your vehicle can download your cellphone data, if he has the right software - and a surprising number of them do.
Not just the dealer. The Illinois State Police were demanding motorists stopped for traffic violations hand over their cellular phones, which were connected to a blue box they were leasing from a vendor. The box didn't work on every phone, of course. The contact and call lists were saved in the box and the phone returned to the motorist, who wasn't told what had been done.

This came up in the comp.risks newsgroup over 20 years ago.

JustPeachy said...

There's an easy solution to that problem: don't smartphone.

Anonymous said...

It's much worse than we think. This youtube has a bunch of annoying ads, but the info is good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xb3jGLXw5og

I would not take a new car if they were giving them away.


Ray - SoCal said...

There are levels of access with Apple CarPlay.

I never give access to my contact list, for example.

Many people after renting don’t delete their cell phone from the rental.

The privacy issue is upsetting, and how the judicial and politicians are ignoring it.

Ultimate Ordnance said...

A lot of us old farts who value our privacy don't carry around a cell phone.

JWM said...

I have an '05 Tacoma. It has crank windows, a clutch, and a gearshift lever. And a radio. But the radio doesn't work.
There are things in this world I just won't allow into my life:
Smart phones
On-board computers


Anonymous said...

I suspect newer vehicles already collect this information when we first enter the car, whether we link our devices, or not.


Scott B.

Anonymous said...

I even check if bluetooth or wifi are turned off on my phone. I know I turn them off, but sometimes I find them turned on.

No way would I connect to a rental car. 15 years ago I found the hard way that motels represent the same risk. In that case, my laptop was so corrupted that I stopped using it. No, I don't watch porn or download movies.

Anonymous said...

There are ways of setting up an Iphone so that it does not give your true location unless you allow it ( for directions and such). After every update you absolutely must check all your settings as sometimes bluetooth and other things are enabled afterward. Also do not do every update, most of them can be ignored. You may also travel with the phone in a faraday bag so it can't pick up on your patterns. Yes, it's a bit of a hassle and if I didn't need a smartphone for work I'd chuck it and get a calls only one.

Anonymous said...

I have an '06 Accord. The radio is old tech and will not work with bluetooth. There are a variety of after market kits that allow you to stream bluetooth to your factory radio and make hands-free calls. The kits are incapable of storing data, as they are just a Bluetooth interface that works with your factory radio controls. Very nice to have!

Anonymous said...

You might be interested in looking at https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/privacynotincluded/categories/cars/ . By default, it is sorted by least-creepy to most-creepy.