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How to protect data privacy in connected cars

From monitoring our driving habits to tracking our location, connected cars know our every move. With a black box or event data recorder collecting information inside 96% of automobiles, modern cars are as much a computer as they are a means of transportation.

However, many drivers and passengers aren’t aware of the privacy risks that come along with connected cars. Personal data stored in cars is not always encrypted, or subject to legal restrictions.

While details such as seat-belt use, speed, and braking are proving be to useful for insurance companies and law enforcement, personal information including phone contacts and text messages could also be collected without a person’s consent.

Connected cars on trial

In most countries, police only require probable cause to search vehicles and are not obliged to obtain a warrant before downloading data. The legality of this has already been tested in the courts.

Such cases call on individual courts to decide whether laws dating from before the digital age should be extended to let police gather more information than was originally intended, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. In the absence of universal legal protections, the problem will continue. Every new technology and connected device will bring up the same challenges.

Manufacturers promise security

Under regulations like EU GDPR, customers have a right to expect information will remain private unless they expressly give their consent. This puts the responsibility on the vehicle manufacturers to build appropriate security measures that will protect an individual’s personal data.

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as collision avoiding automatic brake systems provide higher margins for manufacturers. The market for ADAS is expected to grow by more than 10% every year and reach $67 billion by 2025. Manufacturers have every incentive to ensure that these systems comply with data protection regulations and keep sensitive customer data secure.

So far, about 20 carmakers have signed up to build systems featuring built-in security. The plan is to give car owners the ability to manage the data collected in their vehicles, and obtain customer consent to use location and biometric data for marketing.

Encryption drives data protection

To better protect customer data, auto manufacturers will need to introduce encryption technology into their vehicles. VPN software can effectively encrypt data within the vehicle and as it passes over the Internet. By creating an encrypted tunnel for data communications with the auto manufacturer or smart city system, a VPN renders personal data indecipherable and protected from cybercriminals.

Overall, as advances in connected car technology and next generation bandwidth inevitably increase, the number of cases in which personal data in vehicles is analysed without the owner’s consent will continue to occur. To prevent this, manufacturers must take the proper measures to meet data protection laws. Implementing VPN software can ensure that personal information stored in event data recorders and central computer systems is secure, and safeguarded from unauthorized parties.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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