Modern cars have worst user data privacy practices


According to a report released by the Mozilla Foundation, cars have emerged as the most egregious offenders in terms of user privacy practices. Out of all the product categories assessed, cars received the dubious distinction of being the "official worst" for privacy. The global nonprofit discovered that a staggering 92 percent of the evaluated automakers afford drivers scant control over their personal data, with 84 percent sharing this information with external entities.

Renowned for its open-source Firefox web browser, the Mozilla Foundation is committed to safeguarding the health of the internet. Their "Privacy Not Included" series has produced various reports and guides that scrutinize how products and services, ranging from mental health apps to app stores, handle user data, offering recommendations for enhanced protection.

A visual representation featuring a car and a startled emoji underscores that all 25 cars examined by Mozilla fell short of the organization's privacy standards. Kia and Nissan garnered special attention for incorporating intimate details, including sexual activity, into their data collection practices.

All 25 car brands scrutinized in the report, including Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, and Tesla, failed to meet the nonprofit's basic privacy criteria. They were found to amass more personal data from customers than necessary. The gathered information encompasses everything from medical records to driving habits, like speed, routes taken, and even musical preferences. Notably, Nissan and Kia permit the collection of details about a user's intimate life. In contrast, Mozilla asserts that 37 percent of mental health apps, which also have a questionable track record in data privacy, exhibit better practices in collecting and utilizing personal information.

The report also reveals that 84 percent of the examined car brands freely share personal user data with service providers, data brokers, and potentially dubious entities. Additionally, 76 percent assert the right to sell this personal data, while 56 percent are amenable to sharing user information with government agencies and law enforcement upon request.

Tesla ranked at the bottom in the study, receiving negative marks in every privacy category, a distinction shared by only one other brand. The report singled out Tesla's AI-powered autopilot as "unreliable," citing its involvement in numerous accidents and fatalities.

Mozilla's findings expose that several car companies gather sensitive user information, including photos, immigration status, and even intimate details about their sex life.

In conjunction with the report, Mozilla has also published an analysis elucidating how car companies collect and disseminate user data. This encompasses a range of information, from basic contact details like names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, to more personal data such as photos, calendar entries, and even specifics about the driver's ethnicity, genetic makeup, and immigration status.

Mozilla further asserts that it could not ascertain whether any of the automakers met the organization's minimal security standards for data encryption and safeguarding against theft. Curiously, dating apps and even adult toys often furnish more comprehensive security information about their products compared to cars.

In their report, Mozilla remarks, "While we fretted about internet-connected doorbells and watches potentially invading our privacy, car manufacturers surreptitiously entered the data industry by transforming their vehicles into formidable data-guzzling machines."

The Mozilla Foundation asserts that it dedicated over 600 hours to researching the privacy practices of car brands, three times longer per product than their usual privacy assessments. The report was so scathing that the organization contended that its customary advice for protecting personal data feels like "small drops in a vast bucket." Consequently, the Mozilla Foundation has initiated a petition urging car companies to cease their data collection programs, arguing that they unjustly benefit from these practices, with the hope that heightened awareness will prompt greater accountability for these companies' abysmal privacy practices.

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