Who Owns The Data Your Car Collects?

Ford GT25

At CES 2017, wearing complexity as a badge of honor, Mark Fields (Ford Motor Company CEO) told a room full of tech analysts and reporters that the onboard computers in a Ford GT 25 were running 10 million lines of code – more than Lockheed used in an F-35 fighter jet. He proudly announced that all Ford motor vehicles were going to be, “computers on wheels.”

It was an easy prophecy. Today, all cars are computers on wheels. Which raises a series of questions about data collection, security, retention, and governance. Questions that have caught the attention of California’s new privacy regulator – which just announced its first-ever enforcement action.

California, leading the nation in consumer privacy initiatives, aims to navigate this complex territory. Violators of its privacy laws can expect hefty fines.

Are California’s concerns warranted? Our cars monitor us via embedded apps, sensors, and cameras, gathering data that can influence everything from insurance rates to urban planning. Who owns the data? Is it shared, sold, used by third parties we would not approve of if asked?

It’s worth noting that the US is playing catch-up with Europe on this front. Across the pond, regulators have pushed car manufacturers to limit data collection and secure consumer privacy. For example, Porsche allows European drivers to control personal data collection directly from their dashboards.

But these measures aren’t just about privacy. This vast data reservoir can have national security implications, as demonstrated when China banned certain officials from owning or driving Teslas due to data leakage concerns. Today, it’s California at the helm. Tomorrow, it could be a nationwide effort to protect the data that our cars collect. Time will tell.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

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