If given access to, your upcoming new car could hold more information about you than let’s say your Facebook profile – a goldmine for automakers and interested third parties.
This fact is attracting the attention of European regulators that are growing weary that such data needs to be controlled – and regulations should stipulate who has access to it and can make money from it. Cars are growing even smarter than our smart mobile devices and they will soon be able to track and record where you go, have information about who you call or text and what you Google en route. That would be very useful to the carmakers. “The industry talks about uncovering a gold mine, ” comments Stephan Appt, a Munich-based partner at law firm Pinsent Masons LLP. But there are shades of gray when it comes to what the automakers are allowed to collect and use. For example, Germany’s luxury triumvirate – BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz – set aside their life-long rivalry and jointly showed their interest in such data by bidding together to acquire digital-map company Here from Nokia Oyj for 2.8 billion euros ($3.2 billion).
And they could also introduce services that would track the vehicle’s owner whereabouts even if he or she is not in the car. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz has the “Mercedes me” service that delivers remote data concerning the vehicle – but the privacy statement (the long and boresome sheet no one actually reads) – says the data could also be used for their marketing. But the consumer watchdogs are on the lookout, especially in Europe where they had a recent clash with Google about its Street View service. “We are emphasizing privacy by design” so that systems produce “no more data than necessary,” comments Manfred Ilgenfritz, car-data responsible at the Bavarian data-protection authority.