Automakers’ Privacy Principles Offer Little Real Protection, Consumer Watchdog Says

Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Automakers’ Privacy Principles Offer Little Real Protection, Consumer Watchdog Says

    SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Privacy Protection Principles just released by two automakers’ trade associations do little to protect consumers’ sensitive data that is increasingly collected by modern cars and trucks, Consumer Watchdog said today.

    “The broad principles based on the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs) — transparency, choice, respect for context, data minimization, and data security — sound good, but the rest of the document that explains how they will be implemented reads like it was written by lawyers paid by the word to obfuscate the issues, rather than make them clear,” said John M. Simpson, director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan group’s Privacy Project. “It is full of loopholes.”

    Consumer Watchdog said a positive aspect of the release of the principles by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers is that the manufacturers are finally acknowledging that modern vehicles collect a tremendous amount of sensitive personal information that threatens consumers’ privacy.

    Read the automakers’ principles here:

    “The auto manufacturers want to claim this loophole laden self-regulatory code means that there is no need for real regulations with penalties to protect consumers,” said Simpson. “Instead, the automakers’ principles show what happens when the fox writes the rules governing the henhouse. Drivers need real privacy protection, backed by the law. I hope this woefully inadequate document prompts policymakers to act.”

    Consumer Watchdog applauded the automakers pledge that they won’t turn over geo-location information to law enforcement agencies without a warrant, but beyond that found little meaningful protection or choice for consumers. “They pledge not to use your data for marketing without permission, but it looks like they plan to keep profiles on you for just about any other purpose,” said Simpson.

    The principles’ data security provision is troublesome, Consumer Watchdog said.  The provision says, “Participating members commit to implementing reasonable measures to protect covered information against loss and unauthorized access of use.”  It defines reasonable measures to “include standard industry practices. Those practices evolve over time and in reaction to evolving threats and vulnerabilities.”

    “Put that into plain English and it translates to:  We commit to do what we’re doing now.  If there’s enough pressure and criticism we may do more in the future,” said Simpson.


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