Cars have become intelligent like smartphones, and even smart enough to track and report your personal data to the vehicle's manufacturer. A hack of the 2017 Chevrolet, for instance, revealed that the vehicle could track and report the driver's phone ID, call logs as well as their contact's address and email, according to Dothaneagle's report on December 17, 2019.

Cars Snooping on User Data

Per the report, there's more to cars than just putting your hands on the wheels and hitting the road. Today, a wide range of vehicles have been revamped with hundreds of sensors all over them to track the driver's behavior and personal information. The ability for these cars to ascertain how and where we drive can be tied to the always-on Internet connection they come with, which also enables the sharing of data with carmakers.

There are also expectations that the majority of 2020 model cars in the U.S. will feature built-in Internet connections to obtain more data. In that regard, all of the cars from Ford, General Motors and BMW are expected to come with internet-enabled connections. In contrast, all except one model of Toyota and Volkswagen will come with internet pre-installed.

Hack of 2017 Chevrolet Shows Personal Information Obtained

On the other hand, a test was carried out on a two-year-old Chevy Volt to ascertain the type of data that was received and sent by the car to General Motors. Reportedly, Chevrolet was chosen due to the long time it has taken the automobile company to offer data transparency. Moreover, the American company has over 11 million vehicles on the road equipped with 4G LTE.

When it came to the test, the 2017 Chevrolet was taken into an empty warehouse and its dashboard was taken apart. The aim was to get to the infotainment system; a computer that supports the car's touchscreen audio control interface, but can still track data from devices connected to it, including connected smartphones.

Cars Tracking Call Logs, Addresses, Emails

A special software, laptop, a box of circuit boards, as well as sockets and screwdrivers were used to remove the infotainment system, and on scanning it, several discoveries were made. For starters, the vehicle collected call logs from over a week ago, people's emails, addresses, and photos, as well as the driver's acceleration and braking style. And interestingly, information about the ride's movement to the warehouse where it was dismantled was also part of the data.

Despite the breach of user privacy, and the thousands of dollars that are spent to acquire a car, its data is totally inaccessible to the drivers. There is no dashboard to inform the user about the data that has been obtained and neither is the type of data acquired specified in the owner's manual. And when such data is requested, carmakers hide behind their privacy policies that may be too difficult to understand.

Carmakers are not also taking significant steps to protect the user's data. Besides, there are no federal laws that could regulate the type of data that is obtained or what can be done with it.  Nonetheless, there are several measures drivers can take to reduce the exposure of their data to manufacturers.

Protecting Your Data While You Drive

For starters, drivers can avoid connecting their phones directly to the vehicle. Instead, they can use a car lighter adapter to connect their phones to the car for charging. It can also be helpful to delete the data in the infotainment system before a car is sold or returned to the rental. What's more, the reduction in the use of apps and the activation of services can reduce the level of data obtained.

But where do all these data go? Reportedly, the data is sometimes shared with insurance firms. Also, some carmakers could share data that will allow you to get tracked if you miss out on paying bills. Nonetheless, there is still the risk of such data getting sold or stolen, and that would mean your personal information out in the public.