The National Automotive Dealers Association and Future of Privacy Forum have released a consumer guide informing consumers of the information that your vehicles may be collecting. The guide titled Personal Data In Your Car explains how the data may be collected and used and the options that consumers have. Some of the data may be collected automatically, while others consumers may choose to provide to enable certain functions. As examples, the guide notes that a consumer may elect to the tracking of a location to benefit from navigation and tracking services. Likewise, to enable hands-free dialing, the consumer may elect to sync a phone address book to the vehicle.

The guide notes certain technologies that are found in most vehicles today. Event data recorders (EDRs) have been installed into cars for two decades and are in over 90% of current vehicles. They record technical operating information, such as speed, acceleratory and brake position, seat belt usage and air bag deployment, which can be vital to accident investigations. Federal requirements apply to EDRs and states have varying requirements relating to their data. Also, all vehicles manufactured after 1996 must have an On-Board Diagnostic port, which is generally located underneath the driver’s side dashboard. The port provides information to measure emissions and diagnose performance issues. Owners may elect to plug a third-party device into the post in some vehicles to collect or share information (for example, their insurance company in order to obtain safe driving discounts). The information may include behavioral characteristics such as speeds and geolocation data.

Newer vehicles contain or make available diverse technologies, which offer user and passenger conveniences. For example, some vehicles contain cameras or sensors that gather information about external information such as immediate surroundings. Many vehicles contain microphones, cameras or other devices that may record information about the occupants. Some are relying upon biometric identifiers such as fingerprints or facial recognition, which can also track eye movements to determine whether the driver is dozing at the wheel. Vehicles also interface with third-party systems like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and other services.

The guide informs consumers that they should consider what data their car may have collected before selling it, so that functions can be reset and information removed from systems. With the enhanced conveniences and safety features in our vehicles, consumers should remain cognizant to what information they may be disclosing in the process of using them. Consumers are encouraged to consult with manufacturers and dealers to understand fully what happens when they get behind the wheel.