Friday, September 22, 2023

Modern cars even collect your sexual activity: Mozilla reveals how they violate your privacy

Modern cars are the worst threat to your privacy. This is confirmed by the most recent analysis carried out by the Mozilla Foundation on vehicles from 25 brands, including Tesla, Nissan, Renault, Toyota and Volkswagen. A study that has yielded chilling data, since some cars can even collect users’ sexual activity or immigration status.

Mozilla spent more than 600 hours investigating the practices of these brands in dealing with the registration and manipulation of sensitive information, yielding startling conclusions. To the point that experts say modern cars are a “privacy nightmare” worse than meditation and mental health apps.

In fact, the Foundation indicated that it was not even able to verify if any of the automakers it analyzed complied with its minimum safety standards. We are talking about a set of criteria that specialists consider essential in any product connected to the Internet; from encryption of data in transit and at rest, to security updates and the use of strong passwords for remote authentication, among others.

But what makes modern cars an absolute privacy nightmare is their ability to use your sensors, cameras and other systems to collect an unusual amount of personal information. From how you interact with the car -analyzing your routes and the speed at which you travel, for example-, to the data that comes from connected services, third-party sources and even each manufacturer’s own mobile app.

Modern cars violate your privacy, and not even your sex life is safe

This is how the information collected by your car travels and ends up in the hands of third parties. Photo: Mozilla Foundation.

Mozilla’s study focused on 25 car brands, some of which belong to the same parent company. They were Tesla, Dacia, Renault, BMW, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Jeep, Cadillac, Lincoln, Acura, GMC, Buick, Subaru, Volkswagen, Ford, Fiat, Audi, Toyota, Honda, Dodge, Lexus, Chevrolet, Kia , Hyundai and Nissan.

The worst overall rating was taken by Tesla. Elon Musk’s company set off all the privacy alarms included in the modern car analysis criteria, but what really gave it the infamous laurel was the inclusion of an “untrustworthy AI”. In fact, it was the only brand that received that slap. Because? This is how Mozilla explained it:

“(…) The brand’s AI-powered autopilot system was involved in 17 deaths and 736 accidents and is currently the subject of multiple government investigations.”

However, as contradictory as it may seem, The automaker that worst violates the privacy of its car users is Nissan. This is because, as the Mozilla Foundation found in the brand’s privacy notices, its vehicles can collect and share “sexual activity, genetic and health diagnostic information,” among other types of sensitive data, for the purposes of targeted marketing. And that they can even sell inferences drawn from that information to third parties, also for advertising purposes.

The analyzes carried out on the privacy problems of the modern cars studied are really extensive. In this link you can read each one of them, and even order the brands according to the chilling of the results obtained.

More troubling details

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

The Mozilla Foundation ensures that the modern cars analyzed collect much more information than is necessary for their operation. But the story does not stop there.

  • Of the 25 companies surveyed, 84% share their users’ personal information with service providers and brokers of data.
  • 76% violate the public’s privacy by selling the collected information to third parties.
  • 56% may share their users’ data with law enforcement and governments. But the worst thing is that they do it, even at an informal request, and not necessarily through a court order.
  • 52% can use car sensors to collect everything that happens around them. From the weather conditions and the state of the roads, to other unspecified data.
  • Only 2 of the modern car brands studied, Dacia and Renault, offer a crucial privacy option: that users can request the deletion of their data. Put another way, 92% of automakers do not give drivers the ability to control their personal information.

As we delve deeper into the Mozilla Foundation’s findings, the sensations are becoming more worrisome. Now, if you’re wondering how modern car manufacturers can violate your privacy with such impunity, the answer is simple. They take advantage of the vagueness of the terms included in their data collection and use policies. Or they use legal flips to mask how much information they are recording.

“Broad language is a classic tool used by companies to leave the door open to collecting more data than what is detailed in their policies. It makes it virtually impossible to know all the information that is collected about you.”

Mozilla Foundation.

Modern cars are technological marvels, but unfortunately they also pose a threat to the privacy of their users. Can this situation be remedied? It seems difficult, to be honest. However, the Mozilla Foundation has launched a petition that the public can sign to ask automakers to stop their mass data collection programs. It sounds somewhat utopian, without a doubt, but at least it is a first step.

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