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For automakers, drivers, and biometric security providers, privacy is the new safety

For automakers, drivers, and biometric security providers, privacy is the new safety

Concerns about privacy continue to hover over developments that give drivers new digital and biometric options, but could potentially put their data at risk.

Consumer reports, but for vehicle privacy

The auto market is getting a new seal of approval for cars that meet privacy standards, care of Privacy4Cars. In a news release, the vehicular privacy company announced the launch of a trademarked Vehicle Privacy Report, which will give consumers a detailed overview of any vehicle’s privacy history based on its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

Vehicle Privacy Reports are available for free, on demand, at vehicleprivacyreport.com. Using standardized, clickable icons, the reports disclose what kinds of personal information (PI) a car manufacturer collects, distributes, or sells, including biometrics and location data. They also list which entities receive the information, from governments to data brokers. A separate dashboard monitors the number of days since personal information was purged from the vehicle, and what other measures businesses have taken to prioritize privacy. Finally, users can access relevant privacy documentation, or skip it, depending on how long the report estimates it will take to read.

“Until today, trying to understand what owners, renters, and passengers are agreeing to required hours to research and read complex legal documents,” said Andrea Amico, the CEO of Privacy4Cars. Declaring that “privacy is the new safety,” she says the report is intended to help consumers make informed choices, but also help automakers disclose that information to customers in a way that is compliant, organized, and easy to understand.

“Consumers don’t realize that when they purchase a vehicle they also agree to have their PI collected, shared, and sold — and potentially left behind and leaked unless proper safeguards are put in place,” Amico says. The company’s release cites internal research showing that, in a blind test conducted at 150 dealerships, fewer than five percent of salespeople made it clear that cars collect PI, or what rights manufacturers have to share or sell the data.

Privacy4Cars is committing to keep the online tool free for consumers, “until the burden no longer falls primarily on consumers to proactively delete their personal information from vehicles.” Businesses testing their own cars will be charged a fee, but offered a free trial.

Toyota admits to a major data leak

Toyota is among automakers facing questions about privacy protections, following the revelation that the vehicle data of 2.5 million customers has been publicly available for a decade, due to human error.

A report from Reuters says that, according to company representatives, back in 2012, someone mistakenly set the company’s cloud system to public instead of private. This exposed the VINs and location data (among other information) of drivers that had signed up for its main cloud service platforms, which provide AI voice-enabled driving assistance and other AI integrations. The breach affected both Toyota and Lexus brand vehicles.

“There was a lack of active detection mechanisms, and activities to detect the presence or absence of things that became public,” says a spokesman for Toyota, clarifying little.

The company has alerted Japan’s Personal Information Protection Commission and pledged to improve safeguards and training relating to data protection.

Funky Cats and digital keys spice up the market

As the automotive industry continues to digitize its product and drivers come to expect advanced technological features, manufacturers are exploring new ways to integrate biometrics and touchless security into their cars.

Tesla has updated its mobile app to enable a passive authentication option that allows drivers to use their phones as mobile keys. According to Drive Tesla Canada, version 4.20.75 includes a toggle option that turns on and off the mobile key feature, to surmount Bluetooth limitations and add an extra layer of security. When the feature is off, the car will not lock, unlock, or shift into drive without a physical key card.

In Ireland, Chinese brands are bringing biometrics to their new models. Lao is Live reports that Great Wall Motors recently launched the Ora Funky Cat, a feature-heavy EV model that offers facial verification and voice recognition. The biometric profiles option means that different drivers can adjust settings simply by getting in the car and being recognized.

The Ora Funky Cat, which looks something like a Mini Cooper, retails starting at around 32,000 euros (US$34,600).

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