My new car is a spy

2023-12-01 08:27:00, Kuriozitete CNA

My new car is a spy

The cars save driver data at least every two minutes. This was revealed by the ADAC study. What exactly do they memorize?

"Modern cars basically know everything about their owners," says Volker Ludemann, director of the Center for Defense and Science in Saxony as well as Postal Services at the University of Applied Sciences in Osnabrück, summarizing the state of knowledge about our vehicle, in a statement to tagesschau24.

Up to 150 sensors are installed in modern cars. They record driving behavior, the number of people in the car seats, the level of acceleration of the car; They recognize the driver's musical taste, recognize driving errors and determine the location of the vehicle. With this treasure trove of data, manufacturers have a wealth of knowledge about drivers and vehicles: So the car has become a spy for money?

What happens to the data?

Some data has been used for years to read errors in mechanical offices. In some cases, the collection of this data is required by law - for example, to monitor compliance with emissions standards by recording how much fuel a particular vehicle consumes. From the summer of 2022, new registered cars must also be equipped with equipment for memorizing data about accidents.

"Individual observations may be harmless on their own, but if the data is aggregated, combined and evaluated, it can lead to serious privacy violations," Ludeman explains, using the example of when data about people in a car is combined with driving destinations.

"If seat weight increases consistently over a nine-month period and frequent visits to the baby store are made, then anyone with access to this data knows that "these drivers and their families are facing major changes in the situation of their lives." Who has the data, has the advantage.

Drivers usually don't know who has which of their data and what happens to it. "Most of this data is stored on the manufacturer's servers," Ludeman explains. "They decide who gets the data." At the moment, only car manufacturers have access to and can use the data. And they do that. And anyone who has access to the data does business with it. According to Ludeman, it's not just about passenger data: the emergency call on EU territory, the so-called E-Call, automatically makes an emergency call when the airbag deploys. "If the vehicles are connected to the E-Call system, the emergency call does not go to the emergency number 110 or 112, but to the manufacturer's number. Then they decide which assistance service will be engaged and which auto mechanic workshop receives the order of repair".

My new car is a spy

Billions in customer ignorance

This also brings insurance companies into play. If the insurance company is notified immediately in the event of an accident, they can determine which services can help get the car off the road, where it should be sent, etc. And so they save a lot of money but they can also decide on other steps towards drivers.

The possibilities with data collection are so great that they whet the appetite for more. There is a battle here between car manufacturers, emergency services, software companies, garages, hospitals and insurance companies. They have realized that they can also benefit from the ignorance of the customers.

According to consulting firm McKinsey, the networking of vehicles and the use of data from cars have great economic potential. Overall, manufacturers, suppliers and service providers can expect to make around $400 billion a year by 2030, when 95 percent of all vehicles will be networked. $250 billion could be gained from sales, as well as an additional $150 billion in potential savings.

Who keeps this data?

Our everyday lives are becoming increasingly networked - toys, toasters and fridges are 'smart'. But who owns the data? Consumers typically assume they have rights to the data they generate, including data from machines. "In reality, the rights of who owns the data are unclear," says Ludeman.

The data still belongs to the manufacturers. But the new law allows users to determine for the first time whether and to what extent third parties have access to their data – and for what purpose. The EU Data Act, due to come into effect in 2025, will regulate when companies and private individuals can receive and share information from networked devices. At the same time, the illegal transfer of data must be prevented. "In a sense, this is a regulation that makes sense," Ludeman explains.

But many companies are reluctant to increase data protection, says Mihael Hajze. "You can measure what data protection is worth to someone, which is certainly very important." However, Hajze emphasizes that there would also be economic disadvantages if the rules were too strict. "Right now we're a little too restrictive."

My new car is a spy

Criticism of consumer representatives and ADAC

German automakers like BMW tout compliance with legal regulations and that customers can handle privacy matters themselves. But this is not enough for ADAC. The association wants drivers to know what data from their car is collected, stored and evaluated, that they should be able to disable data processing and forwarding, and decide for themselves who has access to data about their vehicle.

The planned law does not go far enough for consumer representatives either. They want clearer regulation at EU level. Digitalization expert Roland Fige says companies also use data to improve services and products. But to tagesschau24 he also points out: "By voluntarily giving up data and essentially paying with data, we are gradually losing sovereignty over our data."

Conclusion: Currently, there is a lack of practical solutions for greater impact on the data your vehicle collects. And so the car is and remains not only "the favorite child of the Germans", but also a treasure for data collectors./ DW

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