What does a car need to know about your sex life? Lock and Code S04E20

This week on the Lock and Code podcast…

When you think of the modern tools that most invade your privacy, what do you picture?

There’s the obvious answers, like social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram. There’s email and “everything” platforms like Google that can track your locations, your contacts, and, of course, your search history. There’s even the modern web itself, rife with third-party cookies that track your browsing activity across websites so your information can be bundled together into an ad-friendly profile. 

But here’s a surprise answer with just as much validity: Cars. 

A team of researchers at Mozilla which has reviewed the privacy and data collection policies of various product categories for several years now, named “Privacy Not Included,” recently turned their attention to modern-day vehicles, and what they found shocked them. Cars are, to put it shortly, a privacy nightmare

According to the team’s research, Nissan says it can collect “sexual activity” information about consumers. Kia says it can collect information about a consumer’s “sex life.” Subaru passengers allegedly consent to the collection of their data by simply being in the vehicle. Volkswagen says it collects data like a person’s age and gender and whether they’re using your seatbelt, and it can use that information for targeted marketing purposes. 

But those are just some of the highlights from the Privacy Not Included team. Explains Zoë MacDonald, content creator for the research team: 

“We were pretty surprised by the data points that the car companies say they can collect… including social security number, information about your religion, your marital status, genetic information, disability status… immigration status, race. And of course, as you said.. one of the most surprising ones for a lot of people who read our research is the sexual activity data.”

Today on the Lock and Code podcast with host David Ruiz, we speak with MacDonald and Jen Caltrider, Privacy Not Included team lead, about the data that cars can collect, how that data can be shared, how it can be used, and whether consumers have any choice in the matter.

We also explore the booming revenue stream that car manufacturers are tapping into by not only collecting people’s data, but also packaging it together for targeted advertising. With so many data pipelines being threaded together, Caltrider says the auto manufacturers can even make “inferences” about you.  

“What really creeps me out [is] they go on to say that they can take all the information they collect about you from the cars, the apps, the connected services, and everything they can gather about you from these third party sources,” Caltrider said, “and they can combine it into these things they call ‘inferences’ about you about things like your intelligence, your abilities, your predispositions, your characteristics.” 

Caltrider continued:

“And that’s where it gets really creepy because I just imagine a car company knowing so much about me that they’ve determined how smart I am.”

Tune in today for the full conversation. 

You can also find us on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts, plus whatever preferred podcast platform you use.

Show notes and credits:

Intro Music: “Spellbound” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
Outro Music: “Good God” by Wowa (unminus.com)

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