US: automakers keep location data of drives image

A government report finds that major automakers are keeping information about where drivers have been — collected from onboard navigation systems — for varying lengths of time.

Owners of those cars can’t demand that the information be destroyed. And, says the U.S. senator requesting the investigation that raises questions about driver privacy. The Government Accountability Office in a report released Monday found major automakers have differing policies about how much data they collect and how long they keep it.

Automakers collect location data in order to provide drivers with real-time traffic information, to help find the nearest gas station or restaurant, and to provide emergency roadside assistance and stolen vehicle tracking. But, the report found, “If companies retained data, they did not allow consumers to request that their data be deleted, which is a recommended practice.”

The report reviewed practices of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. It also looked at navigation system makers Garmin and TomTom and app developers Google Maps and Telenav. The report, which didn’t identify the specific policies of individual companies, found automakers had taken steps to protect privacy and were not selling personal data of owners, but said drivers are not aware of all risks.

Senator Al Franken, who chairs a judiciary committee on privacy and requested the report, said that more work needs to be done to ensure privacy protections for in-car navigation systems and mapping apps. He plans to reintroduce his location privacy legislation sometime this year.