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How to Figure Out What Your Car Knows About You (and Opt Out of Sharing When You Can)

•, By Thorin Klosowski

A recent New York Times article highlighted how data is shared by G.M. with insurance companies, sometimes without clear knowledge from the driver. If you're curious about what your car knows about you, you might be able to find out. In some cases, you may even be able to opt out of some of that sharing of data.

Why Your Car Collects and Shares Data

A car (and its app, if you installed one on your phone) can collect all sorts of data in the background with and without you realizing it. This in turn may be shared for a wide variety of purposes, including advertising and risk-assessment for insurance companies. The list of data collected is long and dependent on the car's make, model, and trim.  But if you look through any car maker's privacy policy, you'll see some trends:

Diagnostics data, sometimes referred to as "vehicle health data," may be used internally for quality assurance, research, recall tracking, service issues, and similar unsurprising car-related purposes. This type of data may also be shared with dealers or repair companies for service.
Location information may be collected for emergency services, mapping, and to catalog other environmental information about where a car is operated. Some cars may give you access to the vehicle's location in the app.

Some usage data may be shared or used internally for advertising. Your daily driving or car maintenance habits, alongside location data, is a valuable asset to the targeted advertising ecosystem.

All of this data could be shared with law enforcement.
Information about your driving habits, sometimes referred to as "Driving data" or "Driver behavior information," may be shared with insurance companies and used to alter your premiums.  This can range from odometer readings to braking and acceleration statistics and even data about what time of day you drive..

Surprise insurance sharing is the thrust of The New York Times article, and certainly not the only problem with car data. We've written previously about how insurance companies offer discounts for customers who opt into a usage-based insurance program. Every state except California currently allows the use of telematics data for insurance rating, but privacy protections for this data vary widely across states.