Could your car be secretly spying on you?

17th Mar, 2022

We hate to be the ones to break it to you, but if your car is connected to the internet in some way, you’re probably being spied on to some degree. It’s a fairly new capability for cars, something that newer and more advanced models are becoming especially adept at. (Equally, older models from the early 2000s and before are likely to be collecting significantly less data, if they collect anything at all.)

Now, as technology has advanced in all areas of our lives, as a species it’s fair to say that we’ve become more used to the idea of handing over more of our personal information to be stored, bought and shared by various companies, allowing us to all enjoy the benefits it grants us in return. But in recent years that’s reached a bit of a tipping point, and now countless people have an understandable sense of caution about handing over too much of their personal data.

That’s exactly why GDPR exists. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), was introduced in 2016 as a legal framework that sets down guidelines for the collection of processing of information from individuals who live in the European Union (EU). Now, we agree to these conditions when we go online, which gives internet companies our consent to collect our data. That’s not the case, though, when we hop into the driver’s seat. In other words, we give our computers permission to access and share our data – but when do we give it to our cars?

So, you’re probably asking, how is your car harvesting data about you? What sort of data is it collecting? How much does your vehicle know about you? And also, what happens to that information when you sell it on or scrap your car? We’ll answer all that – and more – below!


How is my car spying on me?

To be honest, your car’s spying on you in much the same way that your mobile phone is – it’s collecting data about how you use it. No more, no less.

It’s not always underhanded, either. Most cars with an internet connection will have their own connected service that you’ll be able to access and interact with, and possibly even voluntarily giving it clear data about how and where you’re driving it. Through these services, car companies use vehicle-specific data companies to find out more about your driving habits, before selling on this data to vehicle manufacturers.

What does your car know?

It understandably might sound a little unsettling, but may not be as worrying as it first sounds. These companies only collect ‘personal vehicle data’ – the term is a slight misnomer, as it’s actually far less personal than collecting other types of details. ‘Personal vehicle data’ measures things like your speed, trip duration, and the number of passengers you carry in your car – in other words, mainly your general driving habits. So your next question is probably: who’s that being sold to?

Well, we’ve already touched on the answer above – mostly, it’s car manufacturers. Companies like Volvo use their apps to keep ‘personal data for customer management’ which does record slightly more intimate data like your location, but they guarantee to remove this kind of personal information if you decide to sell or scrap your car.

Your insurance company will use things like the ‘black box’ to keep track of how you drive, as a way of determining whether to maintain an insurance policy with you. Many of us have these when we first start driving, and some cars are even smart enough to tell when you’re too tired to drive. Things like driver monitoring systems use cameras and infrared LED to watch your eye and head movements for signs of drowsiness – which can be pretty handy if you find yourself driving late into the night.


What’s this data used for?

Like a lot of things – it all comes down to making money. Car companies use this data to build marketing campaigns, and some have already spoke of their ambition to use this it as a way of offering up further, personalised add-ons to their vehicles.

For example, the the Skoda Octavia, SE model, gives its drivers the option to upgrade to auto-dip headlights for a one off payment of £179, which you pay through their connected service. Thanks to the rise in digital buying, we’re now getting used to paying a little bit extra for things after the original purchase, whether that’s videogame add ons, extra leg room on a plane and so on. However you choose to look at it, personalisation is the future and now that’s coming to cars too. Thanks to Google, buying from behind the wheel will continue to be a growing trend for car companies in the coming years.

On that note – Ford is also partnering with Google from 2023, and will offer vehicles with Google Assistant, voice control functionality, Google maps, and Google Play store built-in.

Depending on how you feel about your data, that may sound like a dream come true… or it may sound like an absolute nightmare. If the latter, it’s not something to worry about too much for the moment – there are plenty of less advanced (and arguably less intrusive) cars for you to choose from.

Whatever you’re driving though, you can always count on us to help you get the very best price when you scrap your car. Just enter a few details about your car on our website and you’ll get an instant, free no-obligation quote! The entire process takes about 10 seconds – so why not see how much your car is worth?

Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial