September 22, 2011
GM’s OnStar Wants To Keep Track Of You, Even If You Decline
General Motor´s navigation service OnStar has detailed changes to its privacy statement that effectively allows them to sell or distribute your personal information and your coming and goings to whomever it pleases. In other words, OnStar reserves the right to share that information with credit card processors, law enforcement and others, according to various media reports.
OnStar allows any vehicle it is installed on to be tracked if stolen, call emergency services if a collision is detected and even unlock the vehicle remotely. Once exclusive to General Motors vehicles, this July, OnStar began offering services to non-GM cars.
The updated policy, sent to users via email, is being criticized by privacy activists who highlight the clauses allowing OnStar to sell GPS tracking data to its choice of partners, albeit in anonymized form.
“What´s changed [is that if] you want to cancel your OnStar service, we are going to maintain a two-way connection to your vehicle unless the customer says otherwise,” OnStar spokesperson Adam Denison told Wired Magazine and Slashgear.
“Customers canceling the service will be notified that GM maintains a two-way connection and asked whether they would permit that to continue,” Denison said. “If the customers decline, GM would begin the process of disconnecting the vehicle immediately.”
Leaving the connection open, GM argues, would allow it to provide car owners with updated warranty or recall data and warn of severe weather conditions. “We hear from organizations periodically requesting our information,” Denison continued.
GM, trying to paint a brighter picture of this new policy pointed to the Michigan Department of Transportation and how it might, “get a feel for traffic usage on a specific section of freeway.” However the policy also allows the data to be used for marketing purposes by OnStar and vehicle manufacturers.
GPS data would also create a trove of data that could be used in criminal and civil cases. It is not out of the realm of imagination for an eager police chief of a cash-strapped city to acquire the data to issue speeding tickets en masse.
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