SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – Every time you get behind the wheel, your car is likely doing something you don’t even realize, tracking you. In some cases what’s recorded by your automobile can be used against you.
“This data that can be recorded, it can lay out all kinds of information which can be used against you,” said Michael Morrison with Cottman Tranmission in Spartanburg.
Morrison is referring to the Event Data Recorder. It’s your car’s version of the little black box, storing data from the last moments leading up to a crash.
WSPA, sister station to News13, learned 17 states have passed privacy statutes that require permission from the car owner to access the data. Neither South Carolina nor North Carolina are among those.
“If I got in an accident and it wasn’t my fault, it would be great. But if it’s the other way around, I don’t know if I like that,” said Michelle Garland who owns a 2008 BMW.
Keep in mind, many car insurance contracts contain clauses that require you to cooperate with the insurer by providing data from an event data recorder, and an insurance company can then provide that information to law enforcement.
Garland’s car also has another feature that raises other privacy concerns. Its telematics system which offers things like built in navigation, collects data on an ongoing basis. You may recall in July when hackers were able to disable a Jeep through a flaw in that navigation system. There are few regulations on how that data can be used.
“That is our privacy. Where we go, what we do, it’s really not anybody’s business but our own. Yeah, I don’t know if I like that,” states Garland.
Telematics also lets you sync up your cellphone to your car. Even your entire contact list. Even if you choose to do that, make sure you turn off your bluetooth when you leave the car. If you plan to sell the vehicle, you’ll want to clear that saved data.
“If you had not informed me, I probably would have left it on there and not even thought anything about it,” admits Garland.
With telematics you can opt-out. You cannot easily turn off the black box, since it’s often connected to the airbag system. But knowing the data is there to use, could help you down the road.
There are a few more ways your car can spy on you.
Some insurance companies offer discounts if you agree to let them put in a device that records your driving. It can help lower your premium, but if you don’t drive well, it could work against you. You can also be tracked if you buy a car from a lot that offers financing in exchange for installing a device that could disable the car if you don’t pay.