Your smart car is spying on you, and it knows about your sex life

84% of smart car manufacturers share or sell your data, and they know more about you than any product, as detailed in a new report.

3 minutes & 5 seconds read time

That headline might sound like a joke, but the sheer amount of data being collected and tracked by modern smart cars is incredible. As revealed by ExpressVPN, data collection and monitoring in smart cars goes well beyond what you'd expect to find. Driving habits, GPS data, and how close you let the tank get to empty before pulling into a gas station for fuel or a charge? Sure.

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Everything there is to know about you and your behavior, right down to fingerprints and facial scans? Not cool.

It's a long, seemingly never-ending list of personal information and data being collected. According to the Mozilla Foundation, smart cars are the worst offenders when it comes to the excessive collection of personal data. In the U.S., Nissan's privacy policy confirms that its smart cars collect sensitive information like driver's license numbers, citizenship status, nationality, race, and gender - but also "sexual activity."

Exactly how Nissan tracks and monitors "sexual activity" has never been explained by the company. Still, we wouldn't put it past a corporation to use a smart car's complex and intricate sensors and monitoring tools to detect vehicle movement related to this specific type of activity.

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How much pressure you put on the brakes, how fast you accelerate, how long after it starts raining before you turn on windshield wipers, and how often you open and close the driver's side door - are just a handful of the countless telematics that are constantly being tracked in a modern smart car.

All of this data is then used to create a driver profile. Do you speed when environmental visibility is low? How many calls do you take or make while driving, and to whom? This information can then end up in the hands of law enforcement, government agencies, or even an insurance company looking for new 'low-risk' customers to offer a discount to.

The fact that smart cars connect to smartphones and Wi-Fi also means they've got access to a long list of connected services, from radio stations to streaming media to calendar apps outlining what you'll be doing and with whom in the immediate future.

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This isn't to say that smart cars are inherently bad - collecting useful real-time data on traffic patterns and congestion is great for improving navigation software. Using this data to track individual vehicle movements and then providing or selling that information to countless agencies, advertisers, and corporations is a different story. According to the report, 84% of smart car manufacturers share or sell your data. And in a very scary revelation, this data ends up with companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and data brokers that share and trade smart car information to the highest bidder.

This naturally opens the door to a data breach or cyberattack and exposes you to identity theft purely based on the sheer amount of data you didn't know was being collected and sold. Car companies that have experienced data breaches that impacted customers include Volkswagen, Audi, Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz.

Even on the right side of the law, it's a little concerning, as smart car data can be used against you in court.

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At this point, you're probably wondering how smart your smart car is. Well, thanks to the Privacy4Cars tool (a U.S. automotive firm), you can find out if your smart car is a "smartphone on wheels" or a "hard drive on wheels." Looking into some of the best-selling cars in the U.S., which include the 2023 Chevrolet Silverado, 2023 Ford F-150, 2023 Honda CR-V, and 2023 Tesla Model Y, you can probably guess which category they fall into.

Where to from here? Well, the study concludes that with examples of poor data control and security and the blurring of "consent" on behalf of drivers, robust and comprehensive regulation and oversight are required. And in the meantime, maybe look into a non-connected car or limit what information your vehicle has access to. And maybe find another spot for "sexual activity."

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Kosta is a veteran gaming journalist that cut his teeth on well-respected Aussie publications like PC PowerPlay and HYPER back when articles were printed on paper. A lifelong gamer since the 8-bit Nintendo era, it was the CD-ROM-powered 90s that cemented his love for all things games and technology. From point-and-click adventure games to RTS games with full-motion video cut-scenes and FPS titles referred to as Doom clones. Genres he still loves to this day. Kosta is also a musician, releasing dreamy electronic jams under the name Kbit.

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