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Connected cars’ illegal data collection and use now on FTC’s “radar”

An image of cars in traffic, with computer-generated bounding boxes over each one, representing the idea of data collection

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The Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Technology has issued a warning to automakers that sell connected cars. Companies that offer such products “do not have the free license to monetize people’s information beyond purposes needed to provide their requested product or service,” it wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. Just because executives and investors want recurring revenue streams, that does not “outweigh the need for meaningful privacy safeguards,” the FTC wrote.

Based on your feedback, connected cars might be one of the least-popular modern inventions among the Ars readership. And who can blame them? Last January, a security researcher revealed that a vehicle identification number was sufficient to access remote services for multiple different makes, and yet more had APIs that were easily hackable.

Later, in 2023, the Mozilla Foundation published an extensive report examining the various automakers’ policies regarding the use of data from connected cars; the report concluded that “cars are the worst product category we have ever reviewed for privacy.”

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