Connected cars may be cool, but pose a threat to privacy of users

WU staff | Features | March 10, 2014
Connected cars may be cool, but pose a threat to privacy of users

There's no doubt that the connected vehicles are the future of the automobile, but they pose a serious threat to the privacy of customers. The trend which has already engulfed the technology world could soon reek havoc in vehicles if manufacturers wrongly make use of the vast expanse of data they gather.

Martin Winterkorn, the chief executive of Europe's largest carmaker Volkswagen, urged carmakers to prevent connected vehicles from turning into 'data monsters' that aid snooping on customers.

“I clearly say yes to Big Data, yes to greater security and convenience, but no to paternalism and Big Brother. At this point, the entire industry is called upon. We need a voluntary commitment by the automobile industry,” he said, in a Financial Times report.

With ever increasing levels of sophistication in car infotainment systems and self-driving technologies, carmakers have access to vast amounts of data which is often personal to the users. Just as social networks rely on personal information of its users to offer targeted advertising, data from cars could be used by carmakers to offer some new kind of service.

One such prime example of the intrusive use of technology in cars is installation of telematic systems which could identify aggressive driving patterns, leading to insurance companies penalising customers with higher premiums. However, installation of such devices are the centrepiece of the self-driving car.

Another potential headache for carmakers is the clear demarcation between data that can be stored and data that must be discarded, in the event of an accident. A prime example of this is Mercedes-Benz's S-Class self-driving test mule which collected over 300 gigabites worth of images in a single hour just from the onboard stereo camera.

Connectivity in cars also brings into account the threat of data access by unauthorised parties, and corruption of systems and data logging through maleware. Where and how carmakers store data will serve as huge logistical problems and is only opening doors for technology companies into the auto sector.

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