The Connected Car and Consumer Privacy

The Connected Car and Consumer PrivacyBy: Andrew Fixler, Senior Project Director

On March 21st during the keynote address of the Apple Event, CEO Tim Cook reaffirmed the company’s commitment to privacy. Early in his speech he addressed Apple customers directly, saying, “We believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and protect your privacy.”

Leaving the legal analysis to others, consumer satisfaction is more in our line of work as researchers. In our studies relating to the appeal of new features for vehicle makes and models that will be available in the future, consumer feedback demonstrates a clear demand to enhance connectivity. If phones are our new personal assistants and keepers of our secrets, automobiles are increasingly becoming our mobile offices and logistics coordinators.

Current telematics tools with direct relevance to the automotive industry include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, to further increase safety and convenience, automotive manufacturers and suppliers are now preparing for a future where all vehicles are connected to each other, along with the infrastructure that surrounds them. Privacy becomes even more complex if future users feel they should control the information that connects to vehicles from car sharing services like ZipCar or Uber.

Knowing that connected cars are here to stay, how should automakers deal with their customers’ need for in-vehicle security, privacy, and encryption? As of now, automakers are actively seeking ways to keep vehicle software safe from hacking. Developing a comprehensive privacy policy may be the next logical step.

Recent news of the collegial agreement between 20 automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to make autonomous emergency braking standard by 2022 proves that creating industry guidelines for new technology is possible. This process may be a model for the development of best practices for privacy and connectivity in automobiles, aligning the interests of all stakeholders.