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Carmakers Keep Data On Drivers' Locations From Navigation Systems 189

cold fjord writes "The Detroit News reports, 'A government report finds that major automakers are keeping information about where drivers have been — collected from onboard navigation systems — for varying lengths of time. Owners of those cars can't demand that the information be destroyed. And, says the U.S. senator requesting the investigation, that raises questions about driver privacy. The Government Accountability Office in a report released Monday found major automakers have differing policies about how much data they collect and how long they keep it. Automakers collect location data in order to provide drivers with real-time traffic information, to help find the nearest gas station or restaurant, and to provide emergency roadside assistance and stolen vehicle tracking. But, the report found, "If companies retained data, they did not allow consumers to request that their data be deleted, which is a recommended practice."'"
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Carmakers Keep Data On Drivers' Locations From Navigation Systems

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  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:17PM (#45891727) Journal

    All across America, well polished and maintained '57 Chevy convertibles just got that much cooler.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:29PM (#45891853)

      In today's weather, though, not one would start.

      • *ahem* []

        (...they've been around since the 1940's.)

        • And in most cases, you don't even need them.

          Block heaters are great, often especially if you want to put them on a timer, to make starting easier. But they are rarely needed except where the thermometer routinely goes below 0 degrees F.

          Keep the right amount of antifreeze in your coolant, occasionally use a little bit of Heet in your gas (unless it already has ethanol in it), and you're good to go in most parts of the U.S.
          • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @07:49PM (#45893175) Homepage

            Uh what? The whole point behind a block heater is to reduce the initial startup cost for the car/truck. They guzzle heavily when under -6C(20f) until the intake manifold warms up, to lower the amount of time required to heat the cabin of the vehicle. And prevent damage to the engine itself, since the vast majority of vehicles don't pump oil before starting, increasing viscosity even a small amount reduces wear.

            And the above has been known for decades. As a fun point, having too rich a mixture of antifreeze will corrode the aluminum, and eat the gaskets between various manifolds. Having it too weak, will lead to popped frost plugs(if you're lucky), and if you're unlucky broken heads, cracked blocks, or broken manifolds. I'll toss in one other thing, back when I was an apprentice in the 90's, a car came in that "wouldn't start" so said the customer. The antifreeze mixture had frozen(too old), and separated the intake manifold from the head. It had stripped all the bolts, warped the head, and broke the manifold. It was just shy of $4200 in repairs.

            • "And prevent damage to the engine itself, since the vast majority of vehicles don't pump oil before starting, increasing viscosity even a small amount reduces wear."

              I am aware of what they are good for. I wrote that they were rarely "needed". It was my understanding that the whole context of this was the big "cold snap". And unless the weather is very cold, research I read a long time ago, when engines did not last as long as they do now, said that the cost of using a block heater is probably greater than the costs associated with the wear on engines that otherwise occurs. For a normal automobile, that is.

              I also stated that you needed to have the "right" amount of a

              • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

                I am aware of what they are good for. I wrote that they were rarely "needed". ...

                Hardly "rarely needed" and "within the current coldsnap" either, if you live somewhere, where the weather gets below -10C(14F), a block heater will help you immensely. Especially with the self-programmable timers, for a normal auto.

                I also stated that you needed to have the "right" amount of antifreeze in your coolant. ...

                No it's not the "right amount" it's the proper type, and the proper mixture, and corrosive state of the antifreeze, not to mention the right level. Which is double true for closed loop systems.

              • by Zynder ( 2773551 )
                I don't know if he's arguing with you but I will. The part you blockquoted from him is absolutely wrong. The reason you use a block heater is to reduce the viscosity of the oil because when it's really damned cold outside, oils tend to turn into jelly and won't pump. You heat it up to ensure it is runny enough to move through the system. The amount of heat soaked into the block does in a small way help with cold starting but that isn't the primary purpose for a block heater. It's to reduce oil viscosit
                • "I don't know if he's arguing with you but I will."

                  Why? Nothing YOU are saying there contradicts what I was saying, either.

                  "Antifreeze, will indeed, freeze."

                  Sure. The recommended mixture for automobiles will freeze. If you're in an area where it gets below -45 F.

                  The pure stuff doesn't freeze until it gets to about -74F. But good luck finding any. Or for that matter, finding a place that's -74F in the U.S.

                  • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

                    Is Alaska still part of the U.S. ?? :)

                    A bit closer to home (I live here):
                    Roger's Pass, officially -70F. It probably was colder up away from the pass itself (which is fairly sheltered).

                    In January 1969, KMON (Great Falls MT) radio's weather station, which was up on the hill north of town, recorded -72F.

                    Recently when it was a bit below zero, I needed to put some power steering fluid in my truck..

                    • I didn't say it didn't happen. But you have to admit that it's pretty rare, where many people are.

                      I'm not that far from Great Falls, myself.
                    • Well, "far" is relative. I'm not that close, either.
                    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

                      Howdy, neighbor! Where are ya? I'm a bit outside of Three Forks. :)

                    • I don't give people my exact location on /.

                      I've had some problems with people getting just a bit too interested in details about me. I am sure you understand.
                    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

                      Oh, I wasn't thinking exact, there being sufficient nutjobs here to keep the asylums busy for decades to come... I'm in the Bozeman vicinity myself. You'd never find me in a million years from that. :)

                  • by Zynder ( 2773551 )
                    I "argue" with you because that's what you like to do obviously. You argue in every thread on this website so I'm just giving you entertainment fodder. I was just pointing out the invalidity of the part you blockquoted. I'm not even sure what your OP was. The way this website hides posts annoys me.
                • The amount of heat soaked into the block does in a small way help with cold starting but that isn't the primary purpose for a block heater.

                  Eh? How did you decide this? A block heater absolutely helps with starting, and by itself, doesn't warm the oil all that much. If it's cold enough for the oil to be a problem, you add an oil pan heater.

                  . . .and also to keep the coolant liquefied.

                  No, no, no. The coolant has to take care of itself. The block heater is only for the engine block, not for the radiator. If the coolant mixture isn't appropriate for the temperature, you'll have problems with or without a block heater.

                  • by Zynder ( 2773551 )
                    The block is filled with coolant. How would keeping the block warm NOT keep it from freezing?
                    • I guess I've not been clear enough: There's coolant outside the engine block that can't freeze either, and isn't heated. Plus, you *really* don't want to lose an engine because you forgot to plug in the heaters. So, you don't prevent the coolant freezing by adding a heater, you prevent the coolant freezing by having the appropriate coolant mixture.

                  • by Zynder ( 2773551 )
                    Oh I decided that because I maintain hydraulic skids bigger than most anyone on this website has ever seen. Most of the equipment I work on is one-of-a-kind or the largest in it's category. See here. []
              • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

                It depends on the car, tho.

                My '63 Olds would start right up in any weather (including -45F Montana winters), but if it hadn't been plugged in, it took forever to get the glass defogged (not so with the block heater running, which actually got the entire interior of the car warm too -- helluva lot nicer than holding onto a steering wheel that's also at -45. It would even melt the ice off the windshield.)

                But if it's below zero, my Ford pickups (otherwise better vehicles) won't start, or start with grave reluc

            • by Zynder ( 2773551 )
              You're a mechanic and this is what you believe? Higher viscosity oils do cushion parts during startup but that has nothing to do with a block heater or it's function. Block heaters do 2 primary things: reduce viscosity enough so that the oil pump can actually pump it because in extreme cold, oil turns into jelly and to keep the antifreeze from freezing. Heating of the manifold and all that other jazz you mention applies to old ass carbureted cars. The only part of a modern intake that is heated is the t
            • by Khyber ( 864651 )

              "As a fun point, having too rich a mixture of antifreeze will corrode the aluminum, and eat the gaskets between various manifolds."

              Aluminum in a '57 Chevy. LMFAO.

              Back to school for you.

            • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 )

              Sounds like you are in a cold part of the world. A 50/50 mixture of Ethylene glycol and water is good down to -30F/-34.4C. 75/25 is good down to -68F/-55C.

              Though block heaters are common in very cold parts, not many cars are sold with them. Only vehicle we had with a block heater was a 1983 Chevy K5 blazer. They are however almost universally common on diesel engines. The only thing is they suck a lot of power around 1500W and I have seen a few trucks burnt to the ground from faulty heater wiring. The salt

            • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

              So what's your thoughts on the commonly-available premixed antifreeze? It claims to be good down to -50 or so, but nowhere on the bottle does it say what the mix IS.

              (I live in Montana. -45 is routine; -65 isn't out of the question.)

    • Suddenly, the basic econobox where every comfort item is an option looks like the smarter choice.

      • This type of thing being possible is one reason I've never trusted a car with OnStar. (To name the most visible.)

        • I predicted when they announced it a few years ago that someone will hack onstar (or be a disgruntled employee) and disable a few hundred thousand cars just because they can.
          I am amazed that it hasn't happened yet.

          I personally would just like the source code of the hack and a short-reach transmitter, to shut down the people talking on the phone or cruising in the left lane.

        • it seems that I won't be trusting the built-in gps units and I'll go out of my way to NOT buy one that is built-in, next time I buy a new car.

          my current car has an aftermarket garmin gps and I know I can clear its memory at will. hell, I can remove the thing from the car, at will, if I want to.

          thanks dealerships: you just saved a lot of us 2x the price of a gps and I bet garmin and company will be thanking the car companies for sending them MORE business!

          (at some point, I'll have to try a linux gps map and

          • at some point, I'll have to try a linux gps map and see if its as good as the commercial ones. would be nice to have a fully open source gps system in my car

            There is GpsDrive [] and navit [] for navigation engines and UIs. I have played around with navit some on a raspberry pi and you can load maps from Open Street Map [] into it. I would suggest checking OSM for some locations you are familiar with to get a better feel for the accuracy of open source maps. In my experience it depends on the the users in a given are, if they are like myself they will map out almost everything they can, if there aren't many users or ones who aren't obsessive things might not be as up to

    • For all intents and purposes, "intensive purposes" is not correct english. This begs the question, why put it in a signature criticizing grammar? ;)

  • The government recommends that you guys do something that will cost you money and empower the consumers! Why haven't you done it yet!?!?!

    • by TWiTfan ( 2887093 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:31PM (#45891883)

      Because the REAL government is quietly asking them to hold onto the data.

      • by icebike ( 68054 )

        And the GAO is dutifully NOT SAYING SQUAT about which car companies do this sort of thing.

        They speak of 10 companies they interviewed, and never once indicate which companies are a) collecting this data, and b) retaining it.
        Way to go, GAO, so nice to know you are on our side.

        If you get your traffic data via any one-way broadcast method, you are probably safe. But if your car offers "luxury" nav systems with on-line weather, and search capabilities, it has to have some transmitter capabilities (built in cel

  • But of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:18PM (#45891731)

    Our economy is increasingly based on collecting, trading, and exploiting customer information, rather than actually making and selling a product.

    When's the bubble going to burst?

    • Our economy is increasingly based on collecting, trading, and exploiting customer information, rather than actually making and selling a product.

      When's the bubble going to burst?

      Customer information *IS* a product.

      • by icebike ( 68054 )

        Customer information *IS* a product.

        But sooner or later, companies are going to stop buying that information, because damn few of them have the skilz to
        actually utilize the data in any real way.

        What good does it do for Shell Oil, Bridgestone tires, or Jiffy Lube to know where I go, and what I drive? Unless they
        start personally sending me printed mail, I never see their advertising unless I drive by it.

        Google has the greatest scam going. While they insist they don't sell my info to other companies, but rather
        simply use it to send me ads on b

        • You have no friggen idea what you're talking about. This information is money in the bank. 10 years ago a salesman would call you at work and suggest you buy their printers. They had no idea who you were, if you could make purchases on behalf of your company and no idea if you would be interested. Companies had armies of salesman that would just canvas whole area codes looking for customers.

          Now, when they want to call Business A, they know nearly everyone who works there... they can cross reference that aga

          • by icebike ( 68054 )

            You're basically talking to a con artist that knows you better than your own mother and you think he's a stranger. You're at a complete disadvantage in the negotiation and have no idea.

            I was born in the morning, son, but not THIS morning.

            Nope. Doesn't happen. Maybe in some salesman's wet dream. Not in real life.
            Cold calling salesmen men get a very courteous but firm bums rush, by our very junior grade phone staff. You see, even a high school educated 20 year old sees right through all that razzel dazzel, before the salesman can even get to someone with purchase authority. Even when someone manages to get the direct number of someone on staff, they get the courteous good bye, as soon as th

            • I, too, see right through that sort of thing on the phone or off it, but these companies keep doing it, so there must be some less suspicious people out there who buy this load of crap

              How else do they stay in business to keep doing it?

              • by icebike ( 68054 )

                Lots of suckers, paying small amounts out of their advertising budgets, without even measuring ROI.
                By keeping the costs down, they avoid attracting attention.

                Most of this info goes to direct mail campaigns, rather than phone calls. 4 unrequested catalogs in the morning mail, all from companies I've never heard of.

                Straight to recycle.

  • Why isn't this required by law?
    • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:28PM (#45891851)
      Because the last thing the Federal government cares about is the privacy of its citizens.
      • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @06:05PM (#45892249) Homepage

        Because the last thing the Federal government cares about is the privacy of its citizens.

        Of course they don't. Because they can demand this information from them and use it themselves.

        "Well, we couldn't get a warrant to install a GPS tracker, but since your Escalade had a GPS/OnStar, we'll just ask GM for all of your travel history. Gee, it says here you were in an area which is known to have drug dealers and prostitutes".

        Much like the Patriot Act rendered cloud-computing to be a security problem for anybody not in the US but using a US based service, the internet of things will essentially cause all of your information to become the property of a company, and readily accessible to the US government.

        I can't possibly put enough layers of tin-foil on to make me feel any better about this stuff. Because we're hurtling towards the dystopian future some of us have been fearing for years.

        Only we seem to be voluntarily providing the companies with this stuff in return for shiny baubles.

        • Only we seem to be voluntarily providing the companies with this stuff in return for shiny baubles.

          It's not that you seem to be doing that, it's that you are doing that, so the simple solution is to stop doing that. Sure it is less convenient but that's the tradeoff.

          • The sad truth is not enough people care.

            I'm a law abiding citizen so I have nothing to hide. And I'm getting the new Eddie Bauer/Denali edition regardless!

            Fool's logic.

            • The sad truth is not enough people care.

              Enough for what?

              • Enough to object, enough to make it a deal-breaker at the POS.

                Most people are busy with their petty little lives as their freedoms slink away as subtly as a frog slow boiling in water.

    • Why isn't this required by law?

      Recommended practices are easier to pass than law. Industry is okay with them because they can ignore them; Congress, agencies, or industry groups can pass them and pretend to be doing something. Occasionally they're even a little bit helpful.

      Congress also does less with each passing year because, as it turns out, doing things in politics means people can paint you as against something, so the safest course of action for most politicians is to do nothing.

      As a result, agencies and functionaries are left wi

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Full stop. Monetization of people, saving their data without their express, signed consent (after they have been acutely made aware -- no EULA click through counts) should be illegal with stiff penalties that include actual prison time. My data is mine. If you want it and want to make money from it, let me know and pay me. I think 50% of all profits you make from my data is beyond fair. Anything less is criminal.

    • Getting a signature on a piece of paper is a bit impractical in the internet age, don't you think?

      Would this prevent sites from counting how many visiters their site received? How about the number of visiters using Comcast? How about the number of visiters using Comcast in Dallas? The number of visiters with IP

      Would this mean that Amazon's fraud team would have to shut down, because they look for suspicious pattens of activity? For that matter, would credit card companies be able to do fraud an

  • What if the driver becomes involved in a lawsuit or is accused of a crime? Could the automakers be forced to provide the data? Or, if the automaker had reason to suspect the information may be subpoenaed would they have to retain the data or risk legal sanctions? A formal destruction policy may help in the latter case at least.
  • Grammar (Score:4, Funny)

    by Stele ( 9443 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:28PM (#45891847) Homepage

    Am I the only one who read that as the car makers are somehow not letting the nav system know the driver's location?

  • Companies should not keep private information about individuals.

    The government hates competition.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:35PM (#45891927) Journal
    I am a simple cheapskate and could not bear to part with 2000$ for a car-nav system that will be woefully out of date in 2 years and the car maker would be demanding 900$ for a map update, and the user interface might have been usable at some point in the design before the bean counters and marketers muscled in looking for brand differentiation and cool and oomph factor. So I have a cheap Garmin with a suction cup holder next to shifter.

    Most people look at it and ask my why or at least raise an eye brow. Now I can simply say, "NSA". And they will nod understandingly and my mojo as the rebel who defies the draconian government will go up one notch.

  • Under long standing case law, information about you is not your data. e.g., the list of phone numbers you called are the business records of the phone company. So the police don't need a warrant to get it, they just have to ask the phone company which has no interest in your privacy.

    It's almost certainly going to be the same in this case. The records the car company keeps are their records, including the tracking data. If the cops want to know where you've been, all they have to do is ask the car compan

  • The government is just jealous that it's having trouble getting the data. They're big babies, if they can't have it they don't want anyone to have it.
  • by rlwhite ( 219604 ) <rogerwh@gmail . c om> on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:47PM (#45892065)

    I was in a meeting today with a state DOT official who showed how his department buys monthly GPS tracking data on all traffic in the state, combined from companies including TomTom, Garmin, AT&T, etc. by a private company and processed by the University of Maryland. He was able to use it to prioritize road improvements and later show the benefits of those improvements. The data he had (average speeds for small stretches of road at hourly intervals) was quite granular and powerful for what he was doing but innocuous from a privacy perspective. The question should be, who else are these companies selling the data to and in what form?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The question should be, who else are these companies selling the data to and in what form?

      We sell it to whomever we wish, and most folks want it as an Excel spreadsheet. Any other questions?

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:56PM (#45892153) Homepage

    This is why stuff like OnStar, or the fully connected internet of things is going to be a privacy nightmare.

    You can't turn off OnStar and trust they still aren't listening.

    When you can't trust that your own property isn't spying on you (which can of course then be subpoena'd by law enforcement), you're pretty much screwed.

    It's bad enough everything you do on the internet someone is trying to track -- having your car always telling the company where you are is beyond creepy.

  • Then make it law, and also make it law that all social sites have to show us what they've collected if we ask for it, AND THEN, destroy it if we quit their sites.

  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @11:56PM (#45894607)

    How about this?

    1. Make a unique drawing on a piece of paper. I believe it automatically gets copyright.

    2. Drive your car in a pattern matching that drawing.

    3. Sue the car maker for having an unauthorized electronic rendition of your copyrighted work. Better yet, get all your friends to do that as well, and make a copyright infringement bomb.

  • Tesla (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aviators99 ( 895782 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @02:27AM (#45895381) Homepage

    When my Tesla was delivered in 2012, I signed a "Data Usage Agreement" that essentially said that they would be collecting all of my data, all of the time, and using it for whatever they wanted (sort of).

    I don't know what would have happened if I refused to sign that particular document, as and far as I know, every Tesla owner signed it.

    I know of no way to opt out.

  • GM = OnStar = off my shopping list.

    Why? Because I can (for now) at least make one choice in my life where I can protect my privacy just a little.

    These companies collecting data are like the scorpion riding on the back of the animal crossing the river and can't help but sting their purveyor and drown as a result. These companies just can't help themselves but spy on you if it will make a buck - especially if the government will pay them for it.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?