Automakers Vow To Collect Data Only with Consumer Consent by 2017

Nov 13, 2014 06:30 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

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Major auto companies including the Detroit Three have vowed to protect consumer privacy by concealing driver identity, minimizing data collection and being transparent with customers.

In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, two trade groups pledged "to follow the principles for all vehicles and programs no later than the 2017 model year," the Detroit News reported.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents Detroit's Big Three automakers, Toyota, Volkswagen and others, said it will back the pledge along with the Association of Global Automakers, which stands for Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and more.

In the 19-page missive, the automakers vowed to be transparent with drivers when it comes to data collection, an especially sensitive topic in a post-Snowden world.

The car companies said in the letter that they would require drivers to opt in for certain programs before any data is collected; they also said that collecting location data and other information would be kept to a minimum.

The pledge will cover all vehicles and programs by "no later than the 2017 model year."

Lawmakers have pointed to the privacy issue for drivers as auto technology becomes more intrusive. Some carmakers use navigation systems to collect data about where drivers have been, and owners can't ask the companies to destroy the information.

Location data poses a risk for consumers because it can be used to "track where consumers are, which can in turn be used to steal their identity, stalk them or monitor them without their knowledge," said the Government Accountability Office. "In addition, location data can be used to infer other sensitive information about individuals such as their religious affiliation or political activities."

Data privacy and vulnerability to hacking have become key issues in the auto world as vehicles feature greater connectivity. Besides location information, new auto systems designed for safety make cars more vulnerable to hackers, especially as the industry gets closer to self-driving cars.

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