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Privacy Transportation

OnStar Terms and Conditions Update Raises Privacy Concerns 185

PainMeds writes "An article by author Jonathan Zdziarski reveals that OnStar has recently updated their terms and conditions to allow the company to sell customer GPS coordinates, vehicle speed, and other information to third party marketers and analytics companies, where it could be used for a number of nefarious purposes. He says, 'To add insult to a slap in the face, the company insists they will continue collecting and selling this personal information even after you cancel your service, unless you specifically shut down the data connection to the vehicle after canceling. ... It sounds as though OnStar is poising part of their analytics department to be purchased by a large data warehousing company, such as a Google, or perhaps even an Apple. Do you trust such companies with unfettered access to the entire GPS history of your vehicle?"
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OnStar Terms and Conditions Update Raises Privacy Concerns

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  • Re:Oh please... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @10:16PM (#37463544)

    Yeah.....Hell, I bet they'll make a fortune selling the information to your car insurance's marketing department so that they'll know how to target you to sell you more insurance and raise your premium.

  • Open Source Project (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @10:40PM (#37463736)

    Has anyone hacked their car to spoof OnStar packets and send them assloads of chaff? I don't see anywhere in the contract where it says you can't send them any GPS coordinates you want. Success will be measured by the number of OnStar-equipped vehicles shown to be commuting across the Atlantic Ocean on a regular basis. Why yes, I believe my vehicle is currently somewhere in Afghanistan. The bloke said he had lots of important packages he needed to deliver. He seems like a nice guy and always returns it when he's done doing whatever he does with it. Even rolls back the odometer for me. Why do you ask?

  • by alcourt ( 198386 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @10:47PM (#37463778)

    Last time I shopped for a car, I told the dealer that disabling the interface so it couldn't be activated remotely was a deal breaker. Manager came over and on a demo car showed how in two minutes they could remove the antenna and attach a cosmetic cover where the antenna used to be. That was about four years ago. Even then, it was known that the service was being activated to monitor position without permission of the owner.

  • by dwreid ( 966865 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @10:54PM (#37463840)
    I just received a notice from State Farm Insurance that if I allow them to collect OnStar data I "MIGHT" get a discount on my insurance. Uhhh... yeah... I'll be sure to do that. (NOT) I'm fairly certain that this is only the tip of the iceberg. How long before the car automatically calls the police when you exceed the speed limit?
  • Re:Oh please... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @11:31PM (#37464062)
    I used to work in the IT end of the insurance industry, and believe me, data is their bread and butter. Insurance companies would love to have something like this.

    I also have to agree with the other posters: as we have seen in recent years with TOS from Facebook, Google and others, if it's in there, they're probably going to do it. They don't hire lawyers to put that stuff in there for no reason... it isn't worded in such a way that it would really cover their asses for any liability, if they DON'T do it. So then... why else is it there?

    Third, "anonymized" data, as we know very well by now, does not guarantee privacy. Especially location data. If you know where somebody lives, it should be easy to follow their movements with that data, anonymized or not.

    And finally: after all these years, I get to say "I told you so" to the people who got OnStar. After all, it's not as though this wasn't foreseen by a lot of people.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @01:12AM (#37464538)

    I went into a GM dealer and asked about this. You can no longer pull the antenna (it's integrated into some non-removable component), nor can you disable the onstar computer, as it is tightly integrated into the drive train computer.

  • Re:Oh please... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @06:58AM (#37465990) Journal

    I used to work for a company that makes and is marketing a GPS tracking system exactly for this purpose. It includes their proprietary GPS tracking device and firmware, and server side software to store the data and do preliminary analysis (but the insurance companies mostly just care about the raw data and will do their own processing). And the insurance companies are very interested in buying data on where and how you drive. So this is pretty much a sure bet. I have to say that I wasn't very comfortable working for a company making 'big brother' devices.

    Another use for this kind of data is for road charging programs for the government. Governments get a lot of their money for upkeep of the roadways from fuel taxes. But as fuel economy goes up, the relative tax revenue for miles driven (which translates to wear and tear on the roads) goes down. So many governments are looking to charging for road use. i.e. pay for the amount of miles/kilometers driven, based on the type of road (expressway, interstate/motorway, two lane blacktop, city cores, etc), time of day (peak/off peak hours), and type of vehicle. Something like Onstar technology fits in nicely with this too.

  • Fitting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 2names ( 531755 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @11:12AM (#37468670)

    My uncle has a country place
    That no one knows about.
    He says it used to be a farm,
    Before the Motor Law.
    And on Sundays I elude the Eyes,
    And hop the Turbine Freight
    To far outside the Wire,
    Where my white-haired uncle waits.

    Jump to the ground
    As the Turbo slows to cross the Borderline.
    Run like the wind,
    As excitement shivers up and down my spine.
    Down in his barn,
    My uncle preserved for me an old machine,
    For fifty-odd years.
    To keep it as new has been his dearest dream.

    I strip away the old debris
    That hides a shining car.
    A brilliant red Barchetta
    From a better, vanished time.
    I fire up the willing engine,
    Responding with a roar.
    Tires spitting gravel,
    I commit my weekly crime...

    In my hair-
    Shifting and drifting-
    Mechanical music-
    Adrenalin surge...

    Well-weathered leather,
    Hot metal and oil,
    The scented country air.
    Sunlight on chrome,
    The blur of the landscape,
    Every nerve aware.

    Suddenly ahead of me,
    Across the mountainside,
    A gleaming alloy air-car
    Shoots towards me, two lanes wide.
    I spin around with shrieking tires,
    To run the deadly race,
    Go screaming through the valley
    As another joins the chase.

    Drive like the wind,
    Straining the limits of machine and man.
    Laughing out loud
    With fear and hope, I've got a desperate plan.
    At the one-lane bridge
    I leave the giants stranded at the riverside.
    Race back to the farm, to dream with my uncle at the fireside

    - Rush, Red Barchetta, Moving Pictures

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!