Connected Car Privacy: we already share masses of data - Carnectiv

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Connected Car Privacy: we already share masses of data

So, what’s the big deal?

I find the debate about data privacy and permission marketing fascinating. It’s so full of contradictions and delusions.

Let us consider this: Connected Car Privacy goes hand in hand with smartphone or tablet privacy – or lack thereof. Most of us take one or both of these devices with us nearly everywhere, including when we get in the car. Likewise, connected cars use connections to our smart devices. It doesn’t much matter whether the car itself adds a few more sensors talking via a Bluetooth or WiFi link to our phones, or whether the car’s sensors and chips talk via cellular to a proprietary vehicle OEM “cloud”: we already have devices which divulge a lot about what we get up to whilst out and about in our vehicles.

Despite some who say that they want to be “private” (and some countries who think they are more “privacy-aware” than others), we’ve already chosen to surrender our privacy. The same personal information (ranging from location, credit card or bank details, tastes, friends…you name it) is already shared frequently with many different app/service providers. They typically do not have exclusive knowledge; we’ve usually given permission many times to access and use the same data about us. For example, the same GPS chip might fix your location and then share it with dozens of app providers – all of whom have been granted your permission (usually when you said “yes” to the “agreed” Ts&Cs) to access this data.

Don’t believe me? Look at an excerpt from a recently commissioned study I’ve been shown (thanks to nil plus ultra, the consultancy and ventures group, affiliated to Carnectiv).

Connected Car Privacy - nil plus ultra

Excerpt from commissioned study. Courtesy and copyright of nil plus ultra.

As we can see, most apps have been granted a great deal of our permission to pass data on about us (I did my own straw poll tally on my own devices, and the results, by the way, were also pretty much in line with these findings). What does this tell us?

  1. Whether you’re a big app user or not, the message is the same: you’ve already signed up to a high amount of data sharing. Whether you really remember signing up or not doesn’t matter: you did download that app, you did agree to the Terms and you did share your personal details when registering.
  2. The same source data is often shared with many different app providers.
  3. Your operating system (e.g. iOS or Android) knows a great deal about you since it’s at the hub of all of the apps
  4. Most of this stuff is being uploaded regularly.

Now, for most of us, this can’t be “new news”, can it? But it does rather explode a myth. I still hear in some quarters that “privacy is a big issue, we want to guard it, citizens have an issue with Big Brother…and the Connected Car Privacy topic is highly problematic”. Come on – get real!  We have long since surrendered privacy for convenience, and despite slight differences in “self image” from culture to culture, we’ve surrendered that privacy whether we’re in the USA, Germany, Japan or India – or anywhere else for that matter.

Update: How about “anonymised” data?

Since first publishing this blog, some people have asked me about “anonymised” data, and whether assurances to keep the car/device/smartphomne user’s identity “anonymous” makes a difference. It looks like “anonymization” is becoming an early line of defence for data gatherers; somehow it seems less intrusive. Certainly, if you were to request “anonymity” when it comes to some/all of your data it requires a little more work (in fact, some pretty basic cross reference analysis) to more or less pinpoint exactly who you are, what you like, browse, where you live and work etc. Of course, you can go back and refute all the permissions in all your apps. Switch off all of the permissions on your smartphone….in fact, why not “go dark” completely and throw it away?! Nope? This strategy is not realistic for the vast majority, which means that simple cross referencing can be done rather easily even if you did select “anonymity” for one or more of your apps.

First published on 17 February 2014, updated on 22 April 2014

About David Jacobsen

David Jacobsen* (*his pen name) contributes regularly to Carnectiv. David is a senior manager in the technology sector, and has been Director and General Manager of a major company whose UK operation is part of HP. His current role involves driving the European technology and innovation strategy of a group of media businesses.

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