Mozilla Calls Out Car Manufacturers for Lack of Consumer Privacy, “It’s Official: Cars Are the Worst Product Category We Have Ever Reviewed for Privacy”

Image: Toyota

Folks interested in buying a new car may want to look beyond the fine print as Mozilla calls out manufacturers over its findings regarding privacy. The IT community is somewhat aware that the current state of consumer protections with modern automobiles is, well, questionable. According to investigations into the matter by Mozilla, famous for its Firefox web browser which in recent years it has been shoring up with updates to aid its users for privacy, auto manufacturers have essentially turned cars into data-harvesting machines.

Mozilla reviewed 25 car brands regarding how they collect and use data from “users” of their automobiles. Subaru’s fine print defines anyone who drives one of their cars as a user and thus can collect data about them. However, Subaru is far from being the only manufacturer to do this and some are far more invasive than others. As Mozilla calls out car manufacturers the list and claims just keep growing.

Image: Mozilla

Per Mozilla (via Gizmodo):

“Many people think of their car as a private space — somewhere to call your doctor, have a personal conversation with your kid on the way to school, cry your eyes out over a break-up, or drive places you might not want the world to know about,” said Jen Caltrider, program direction of the *Privacy Not Included project, in a press release. “But that perception no longer matches reality. All new cars today are privacy nightmares on wheels that collect huge amounts of personal information.”

It only got worse as Nissan’s approach included far more intimate details about its practices of data collection.

Report excerpt regarding Nissan (per Mozilla):

“Here’s why: They come right out and say they can collect and share your sexual activity, health diagnosis data, and genetic information and other sensitive personal information for targeted marketing purposes. We absolutely aren’t making that up. It says so in their Nissan USA privacy notice. And that’s not all! They also say they can share and even sell “Inferences drawn from any Personal Data collected to create a profile about a consumer reflecting the consumer’s preferences, characteristics, psychological trends, predispositions, behavior, attitudes, intelligence, abilities, and aptitudes” to others for targeted marketing purposes. Yes, Nissan says they can infer things like how smart you are, if you have a predisposition to drink, if you are acting depressed, and if you are any good at chess (we’re guessing that’s what they can could be even worse than that), and then they say they can make as much money off that very personal information as they can.”

Mozilla jokes that it can find more safety information for adult sex toys than it can about Nissan, but it (Mozilla) does have a lot more to say about Nissan than others. Nissan did respond to the findings by saying that it adheres to applicable laws and provides the utmost transparency. It should be noted that Mozilla stated that while Nissan appears to be one of the worst violators for data harvesting it could just be that other manufacturers simply are not disclosing as much, which would support Nissan’s transparency claims.

From Nissan (per Gizmodo):

“When we do collect or share personal data, we comply with all applicable laws and provide the utmost transparency,” said Lloryn Love-Carter, a Nissan spokesperson. “Nissan’s Privacy Policy incorporates a broad definition of Personal Information and Sensitive Personal Information, as expressly listed in the growing patchwork of evolving state privacy laws, and is inclusive of types of data it may receive through incidental means.”

Worth the read but many might not even if included

Mozilla’s “Privacy Not Included” reports are worth reading but could be the stuff of nightmares for some. Clearly, the fine print for new cars isn’t giving all the details to consumers regarding what their privacy rights really are in regard to all the data being collected. However, given the lengthy end-user rights agreements, or EULA, that most of us simply click on for nearly every app, game, service, etc., since we are not into reading something longer than Macbeth (here’s looking at you iTunes), it might not matter if all auto manufacturers went to greater lengths of transparency regarding consumer privacy and data collection. So as Mozilla calls out car manufacturers for lack of consumer privacy those same consumers may need to reach out to governmental representatives for protection.

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Peter Brosdahl
As a child of the 70’s I was part of the many who became enthralled by the video arcade invasion of the 1980’s. Saving money from various odd jobs I purchased my first computer from a friend of my dad, a used Atari 400, around 1982. Eventually it would end up being a lifelong passion of upgrading and modifying equipment that, of course, led into a career in IT support.

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