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Connected Cars Don't Necessarily Disconnect Previous Owners When Resold ( 111

A modern car should be treated like a personal computer. Before you sell it, you should make sure all connections are severed and personal information is wiped before handing the keys to the buyer. The Drive reports of a former Volkswagen owner who recently discovered that her connection to her car lingered even after her old car was sold to a new owner. In what may seem like a public service announcement, The Drive writes: "It's up to you to wipe out your data and connections, not the dealer or manufacturer." From the report: Ashley Sehatti sold her 2015 Jetta back to her local VW dealer back in December. Like most car owners, she figured that was the end of it. So she was baffled when she continued to get monthly reports about her car's health. After receiving April's report, she attempted to log into her account for Car-Net, Volkswagen's connected car service. Much to Sehatti's surprise, she found that not only was her account still active, she still had access to her old car. She could see its current mileage, the status of its locks and lights, and, most disturbingly, its current location on a map. Sehatti was not aware that she, not Volkswagen or her dealer, was responsible for disabling access to Car-Net when she sold the car. Its new owner likely didn't sign up for the Car-Net service, which meant that Sehatti's access remained available, even though she didn't even want it. "Our Car-Net Terms of Service explicitly outlines that as a subscriber, the customer has the responsibility to terminate the contract when selling their vehicle," writes Catharina Mette, the head of technology communications for Volkswagen Group's North Americas region. "This is a practice common in the industry." The takeaway here is to read the Terms of Service because most car owners don't do so in any great detail.
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Connected Cars Don't Necessarily Disconnect Previous Owners When Resold

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  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @09:32PM (#56570936)
    Scissors. Antenna cable. Problem solved. Even if only I have access to the app and web site, the servers themselves (run by the automaker) have access to my car. Why the hell would I let someone else's server have access to my car? The only way I'd allow that is if they allowed use of your own encryption keys. Load an encryption key into the car with a USB, push the same key to your phone and computer. Anyone without the key, including the automaker themselves, shouldn't be able to shut down your car, lock it, unlock it, or read its location. Minus they key, they should only be able to do firmware updates, but only with your permission, at a time scheduled by you.
    • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @10:21PM (#56571122)

      Just check your ego, buy an older OBD2 car, about 2000 (in a rust free area if you live in car cancer country, yes you'll have to travel and likely drive an unfixed beater home), have any worn-out parts professionally rebuilt. Pay someone to install all new suspension bushings (rubber or neoprene, your call) and freshen any ball joints, racks, tie rod ends, brakes etc. The suspension, brakes and steering are non-negotiables. But together they will make it ride better than new (if you break a little bread, note if they want $1000 for a ball joint, installed, just run away. I don't mean 'get burned', I mean 'buy yellow Konis').

      People say: 'there will always be another thing breaking.' They are remembering having an old car and being broke, having an old car and having money is an entirely different thing. If you pick the right car, it's systems are very finite. Just a few months worth of car payments will have it all straightened out. Best to just do it right up front. Don't be afraid to spend twice what you paid for it, fixing it. Bottom line will still be next to nothing, pay cash.

      Expect at least one thing to be a huge bitch/expensive, it's always something. Broken bolts etc. (Many mechanics will run, they're scared of breaking a bolt and getting stuck fixing it. Honest ones will tell you upfront, e.g. Ford V8: 'I'm not responsible for broken water pump bolts.')

      Hell, the whole deal is so cheap these days, you can keep two. Insurance on extra vehicles is cheap! Like ten bucks a month each. An old 4x4 pickup is insanely useful and fun, if you don't have to daily drive it, and can afford 35s or better.

      _Don't_ do the paint on at least one, 'city car'. The nicer the car, the faster it gets out of the way of my Civic. Thing just looks uninsured and glued together. Actually mechanically great, interior is clean, just ugly outside. Do gotta watch the cops, that's the downside of projecting dirtbag on the roads, I'm watching anyhow (lead foot).

      Many new cars run on 20 weight oil. They won't make 250k miles on an engine. Cars are clearly worse than they used to be. (Now get off my lawn.)

      • Agreed on the advice of an older car that still has OBD2 for easy diagnosis. No need to "check your ego" -- if a glass and steel cage on wheels defines you, you have other problems. Like the need to get a life and some hobbies.

        Not sure if modern cars are that bad compared to older cars, though. I remember 80s cars where the engine often lasted 80,000 miles before it started leaking all sorts of fluids, burning oil, and the head gasket blew. Not to mention rusting after 3-4 years.

        • Late 80s were OK, particularly for Japanese cars. Even their computer controlled carbs worked, in stark contrast to GMs.

          If your in 'cancer country', everything is different. Cars still rust fast, just not quite as fast, paint is better. 80/90s paint SUCKED, great for city car look in CA, clear coat leprosy.

          IMHO a fifth gen (or 6th, the first OBD2 one) Civic with a B engine was the high point for simple, easy, clean, cheap transportation. Too bad they're all riced to the ground.

      • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

        I'm currently in the market for a new vehicle (my '95 sedan getting to the point of concerning reliability) and I've thought about doing this, but I'm not sure what to look for. Do you (or anyone else) have some suggestions about decent sedans from that timeframe? I'd appreciate any ideas, or anything to especially avoid.

        • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @11:43PM (#56571444)

          First: Get and learn to interpret a vacuum gauge. Goes for ANY used car purchaser, triple for old cars or when involving a stealership. Old or new, vacuum at idle tells the whole internal engine story, it will save your ass.

          Honda, OBD2 pre 2005, 4 banger. Civic, Integra or Accord, matter of taste. I like lite and simple, so Civic (Si or Ex, there were a couple of years of Sis to avoid like plague, early 2000s IIRC, Honda engine and trans were swapping places, Si was out of step, ugly kludges were involved.). No sixs, Honda sixs suck. Absolutely nothing with an active engine mount! 4 door civics are practically pickups. With the back seat down, they haul 2x4s and pretty much any straight stock you have the nerve to tie down and red flag. A 2005 Honda is going to have a lot of life left in it, you'll be able to put off messing with the engine, if auto, transmission hasn't got much left in it.

          Look for a straight body, no salvage titles or major wrecks (even if apparently nicely repaired), runner so you can test drive it. Everything is getting fixed anyhow, but you want to be able to drive it/take it to your mechanic.

          Depending on the car, consider keeping the 95, get the issues addressed. Cover another 'car role'* with the next one. Keep the 95 to drive into the city, make it look not worth stealing, 3 colors of primer. If you have two cars, you can tolerate a little/lot (YMMV) less reliable ones.

          * 'car role': city car, commuter, street racer, 4x4, classic, track day, exotic, silly, demo derby, 24 hours of lemons etc. You do have a six car garage?

      • OBD2 was introduced in the US in 1996, but many pre-1996 vehicles had useful manufacturer specific diagnostic codes for engine stuff.

        I plan on spending about $1000-1500 a year on maintenance on older vehicles. Cheaper than depreciation on a new car.

        No need to replace ball joints if they aren't malfunctioning. And it's not THAT big a job on many cars although it may require a $100 Harbor Freight ball joint press (basically a HUUGE C-Clamp) that most of us don't have in our garage.

        About the only things you

        • No need to replace ball joints if they aren't malfunctioning. And it's not THAT big a job on many cars although it may require a $100 Harbor Freight ball joint press (basically a HUUGE C-Clamp) that most of us don't have in our garage.

          If you are dealing with a cute little pass car, then sure. If you need to do ball joints on a real vehicle like say a Sprinter, then that $100 press isn't going to do the job. I know this because I've done it. I actually got one of them out, but the press was bending before it went. I had to take the arm to my local shop and get them to press out the other one because it just wouldn't do it. I had to make a tool to hold the arm while I pressed it out, too.

          The oil weight thing is bullshit, though. Synthetics

          • Your wrong about the oil and engine life. Ask any professional mechanic, it's been long enough there is no denying it.

            • Your wrong about the oil and engine life. Ask any professional mechanic, it's been long enough there is no denying it.

              My wrong? Look, engines with tighter tolerances are more sensitive to oil quality. That means using the right oil, and changing it often enough. Most people don't do oil changes often enough already. It becomes more important with these fancy new engines. But you put 0W30 or 0W40 in a diesel sprinter. I've been driving one around lately that has over 200k on it and it's full of 0W30.

              Zero weight oil is NOT a problem. Lames who don't maintain their cars are the problem.

      • Good for you if you know what to look for. I have no idea and it is not something I learn from watching a few videos.
        That would mean I would need to look into the repairs and have to figure out if arepair is expensive, but good or cheap but bad or anything in between. And no way of knowing after I spend the money.
        That on top of my time that has a value as well.

        • No different from a new car.

          If you want a good one, you have to do the work. There are no trustworthy sources in this field, CR is a bad joke.

      • by havana9 ( 101033 )
        If you are buying a city car, you could get basic models that have only a normal radio/cd player or even only a hole to put an aftermarket car radio, like the Fiat Panda, Fiat Punto, Dacia Duster and so on.
        I suppose that it doesn't work if one wants to buy an hybrid or a luxury car. Anyway if you like to be a bit ecologic some of these base model are equipped with dual fuel injection, so they could run on CNG or LPG.
        • You lost me at 'Fiat'. Why would anybody not living in Italy even consider them?

          What's your next suggestion? Peugeot? Lada? Yugo?

      • Have a 2001 VW Lupo. Most of these were not so great, but I have it serviced at an official dealer every year (at great expense) and it has never failed.

        Still cheaper than the deprecation of a new car - and I bought it new, so I know who drove it (and how) ;-)

        The only downside is that any new car I get will be much worse than this one. This thing only has: a simple air-condition, powered steering, central locks and powered windows. It's still naturally aspirated.

        Any new car will have a dozen extras that c

    • Scissors. Antenna cable. Problem solved.

      Or just .. make a phone call. There's no need to go destroying data for what ultimately as the article describes is a procedural error.

    • by sosume ( 680416 )

      So you pay a premium to have a connected car and then destroy it.. right. You do realize that those are optional features?

      • You're not destroying it. You're enhancing your privacy by removing a misfeature that mainly benefits the manufacturer :)

        You can always re-connect the thing if you feel you really need it.

    • Word to the wise: Terminate the transceiver end of that cable with a 50-ohm dummy load, preferably one that's shielded, otherwise it may be able to connect anyway if you're in a strong signal area. Also you won't burn up the transmitter that way (which for all I know would make the 'check engine' light come on).
  • by quonset ( 4839537 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @09:51PM (#56570996)

    Why would anyone think signing up for an account meant that account would somehow cease to exist once you no longer owned the car? Not only that, why would one sign up for an account which explicitly links you to your car?

    Oh right. Forgot. Because you can have your "smart" phone linked to your car so you can fiddle with apps instead of concentrating on the road.

    As has been said about Facebook, you deserve what you get. Stop treating cars like a computer and stick to driving.

    • Because they sold it to a dealer. It's reasonable to expect the dealer to wipe it. Also, it's not their data. The person who bought the car was able to be spied on. It's an insane invasion of their privacy.

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        Time to make it the responsibility of the dealer to wipe all data.

        Car manufacturers may also have to introduce a "Factory Reset" function that is easy to find. Especially in the EU now with GDPR coming.

        This is also a reason why I don't sign up to a lot of online services and try to limit the Bluetooth interaction as much as possible.

      • My wife recently bought a 2014 Honda Odyssey from a used car lot. We had to actually take it to a dealer to wipe and reinitialize HondaLInk before we could use it.

    • Oh right. Forgot. Because you can have your "smart" phone linked to your car so you can fiddle with apps instead of concentrating on the road.

      Most of the value added features that link to your smart phone have zero to do with anything while you're on the road. And why would they, WTF do you need a smartphone when you have a far smarter and more capable computer in your car dashboard.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Why would anyone think signing up for an account meant that account would somehow cease to exist once you no longer owned the car? Not only that, why would one sign up for an account which explicitly links you to your car?

      Chances are she didn't sign up for it, I think the manufacturer would have done that automatically when she agreed to buy the "driver convenience" pack (or whatever nice sounding name they gave this bollocks). All the EULAs will have been hidden amongst the paperwork she didn't read.

    • Our old Honda CRV had bluetooth for phone functionality. It was a mission to set it up because you had to use the incredibly poor voice recognition. Unpairing was so difficult it took me 30 minutes to do the first one, and then maybe 3 minutes per connection after that - and yes, I found the previous owners were still 'paired' too. The GPS was even harder - I deleted the 'favourites', but it still had markers on the roads we'd driven on.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      With used phones, computers, tablets etc. the seller usually wipes them. People get upset if they buy one and find someone else's photos on there. Many places that advertise buying used electronics state that they will wipe them for you, because most people don't know how.

      Car dealers and used smart TV shops have a bit of catching up to do. Of course you should do it yourself, but a full reset and installing any updates should be as basic as hosing the mud off and wiping the inside down.

    • Because the masses are "stupid" is precisely why, in many cases, systems should be designed to auto-purge. Actually, many other design changes should be made. The masses don't understand the true implications of much of what they agree to, especially those long-term. Sufficient foresight must had in a case like this for the person to know that they will eventually need to unregister when parting with the car. They will then need to remember to do this.

  • by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Monday May 07, 2018 @09:58PM (#56571024)
    As I understand this, it is the responsibility of the seller to terminate the service before selling the car, but if the seller fails to to this, the seller has access to the car's information, including its location, after the sale. This sounds like it would impact the privacy of the new owner, not the seller. In other words party A is responsible for taking steps to protect the privacy of party B. This doesn't sound like a good system. Is there anything a new car owner can do to ensure that no private information (such as location) is leaked to the previous owner?
    • Especially not letting a dealer clean things up - when by all rights they should be able to. And really, they just plain should if they deal in that brand of car.

      Trade in your phone to Apple for a discount on a new phone, and they might rip you off, but they won't not wipe your old phone.

      • Not all used cars are sold via a stealer, some are sold person-to-person... I for one would rather pay cash on Craigslist than pay a dealer an additional cut,
        • I'm talking specifically about this case. In this case, they sold it directly back to the dealer they bought it from.

          • Dealers do NOTHING to a car they don't have to. Clean, low mileage trades get a quick wash and onto the lot they go.

      • Most people who resell their car don't necessarily do it through the original dealership they used to buy the car. They either do a private sale, or they use a different dealership.

        If the old owner is too clueless to go to a website to reset her account, what makes you think she'll go to an authorized dealership to do the same?

    • Cut the 4G/GSM antenna cable. If the car can't talk to the mothership, it can't snitch.
      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        The problem is that the car uses the docked/paired phone for communication in some brands.

        Get a zap device instead. Like USB killer.

      • Why stop there? Why not puncture the tires while we're in the process of ruining something we just bought?

    • Is there anything a new car owner can do to ensure that no private information (such as location) is leaked to the previous owner?

      More often than not these major disasters are solved with nothing more than a phone call.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Nissan has a master reset in the menus. Wipes out all history, accounts and returns all settings to default. It worked for me.

  • Sounds like more of an issue for the new owner, not the old one.
  • I bought a nice 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee from a Jeep dealer (not a private party sale). This was the last model year it was not an "always-connected" car. The previous owner left his home address in the GPS navigation system and the HomeLink garage door opener programmed. The dealer cleaned the car but not the data. I could just program the car to take me to the last owner's house and open the door. This is a and old problem for people who left their keys in cars that were stolen (the registration listed a

  • Comment removed based on user account deletion
    • by ledow ( 319597 )


      A warning on the screen that says "GPS Tracker Enabled to Jane's Phone" would be quite sufficient to provide enough information to any driver of the car (Jane, her friend who borrows it, a thief, the driver she sold it to) that it's active.

      My car tells me when I turn it on that it's "Connected to Ledow's Phone". It also tells me that the emergency contact feature is enabled when it does so (so if the airbag goes off, it uses my phone to call emergency services).

      This kind of stuff is fixed by the user

  • by SoftwareArtist ( 1472499 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @12:33AM (#56571618)

    The dealer is totally trying to dodge responsibility for their own failure. This wasn't a private sale. She sold it back to the dealer, and then they sold it to someone else. Without making any effort to disable her access or check that she had disabled it. So they sold someone a car, knowing perfectly well the previous owner might have the ability to track its every movement. Do you think they warned the new owner about that? That they got his permission? That they told him how to prevent it? I'd bet quite a bit they didn't. They just sold a product that illegally infringed the buyer's privacy, and now they're trying to wiggle out of getting blamed.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2018 @12:50AM (#56571666)
    A car I rented last year still had the bluetooth connection info for at least two previous renters. Including parts of their phone contact list, and text messages (car had a feature which would read your texts out loud to you while you were driving).
    • The problem isn't the car, it's that people don't care. Until people start to realize just how much they stand to lose by not disconnecting/unlinking/closing these sorts of connections, it will continue in the name of convenience.

      Until illegal purchases are made, or identities are stolen, or actual money is lost en masse, people will continue to not give a crap. Once it does happen, they'll give a crap then push it on to automakers because hey, they made the car.

  • I bought a CPO BMW about 6years ago. All of the previous owners mp3s, uploaded music, contact names/phone numbers were still in the system.

    BMW might do a "100 point inspection" but they don't bother to clear the previous owner's information from the system.

  • by ledow ( 319597 )

    To be honest, if you're buying a used car, you have no idea what the previous owner did or didn't do. They could have just bolted on a tracker and then sold you the car, no? I doubt that a dealership would ALWAYS be able to pick that up. Do they trace every wiring loom?

    If you're buying a car, reset it before you start using it. You don't want their details on the car, and if the model has trackers etc. then surely you'll want to check that's off before you start. Don't rely on the previous owner having

  • My girlfriend bought a new car and discovered the previous owner's Irish Folk Music CD in the CD player.

  • All these wirelessly connected vehicle systems should, for safety/security purposes, have a government mandated hardwired 'off' switch that completely disables any radio transceivers so it's not possible for it to 'connect' to anything.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant