Your car could track your every move, and your insurance is getting the data

CHARLOTTE — When you speed up, when you brake, and even where you’re going -- your car could be tracking your every move.

Jason Stoogenke has a privacy warning after Action 9 found proof that convenience comes with a cost. Every time you get in your car, you’re giving away a little, or sometimes a lot, of information about yourself.

“This is my LexisNexis consumer disclosure report. I’m appalled,” Temieka Clay said.

Clay couldn’t figure out why her car insurance premium went up by 80 percent, so she did some digging and found her LexisNexis credit report, which was tied to her Chevy Camaro.

The report was hundreds of pages, and Clay learned that her car’s OnStar system had been tracking things like acceleration, high speed, and hard braking events.

Clay also discovered that General Motors had shared more than 600 entries with data brokers, who then shared that information with insurance companies.

“Never did I imagine it would be spying on us and sending information about driving habits. That’s just unbelievable,” Clay said.

Jen Caltrider leads the “Privacy Not Included” project for Mozilla. She reviewed 25 car brands with her team, and they reported that every one of them collected “more personal data than necessary” and used that information for a reason other than to operate your vehicle and manage their relationship with drivers.

“The amount of data the car companies say they collect really had our eyes popping,” Caltrider told Action 9.

What’s being collected?

Caltrider’s team identified dozens of data categories that some automakers collect.

See the interactive graphic below for examples of the information that can be stored without drivers’ knowing:

Some of the categories seemingly had nothing to do with the vehicles, like drivers’ physical characteristics or sexual orientation. (See the full list of categories on Mozilla’s report at this link.)

According to Mozilla, a whopping 84% of the brands it researched share or sell your data.

Channel 9 checked on this and even found a report from one of our news vehicles. It turned out that Toyota was collecting plenty of data from it, including personal identifiers, biometrics, location information, and user profiles. That information is being shared with “affiliates,” “service providers,” insurance companies, and the government.

It’s not just GM and Toyota sharing this data. In 2022, LexisNexis said it was gathering data on more than 10 million cars and had contracts with five of 10 of the largest auto insurers.

What can you do about it?

So once you know all of that, what can you do about it?

The privacy disclosure forms attached to many car purchases can be long and confusing, but realize that when you agree to them, you consent to a lot of data collection.

One suggestion is to think twice about installing your car’s app on your phone.

But the built-in features in your car, like OnStar, aren’t going anywhere.

“You know, you’re thinking safety and if it gets stolen, but certainly not spying on me and sending my information to insurance companies,” Clay said.

There’s a proposed class action lawsuit against GM, OnStar and LexisNexis. After the information became public, GM said it was severing ties with two data brokers.

Lawmakers are also starting to pay attention to the issue. One senator in Massachusetts, Edward Markey, has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate privacy practices in the auto industry, saying “cars have become smart phones on wheels.”

You can find out if your data has been released by searching your car’s Vehicle Identification Number at VehiclePrivacyReport.com.

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