Incognito mode for driving? Toyota is thinking about it

A few weeks ago I wrote about how car manufacturers are trying to come up with a privacy statement that details what data they collect and what they do with it. As cars become smarter and data is sent to a central location in addition to being stored in the vehicle’s “black box” it’s nice that the manufacturers want to tell owners how sensitive data collected about them will be used. In that post I said that there would be no “opt out” from data being sent to the manufacturers. When you buy a car, you agree to the terms of use, including tracking, transmission and storing of sensitive location and driver behavior data.

The Washington Post wrote an update today with two new (to me) information about these privacy statements.

First, the bad news. Cars will “start talking to everything around them — from other cars to sensors embedded in the road to nearby businesses.” Will this information be made available to retailers and restaurants in real-time (i.e. as you drive by) and, in return, will they allow them to advertise to the drivers via the car’s entertainment screen also in real-time? Will ads become like Facebook’s hyper-local advertising, set to target users as they near a specific location? Imagine how distracting it could be to constantly get ads on your car’s screen as you drive down a street full of stores.

Tool booths on the Golden Gate Bridge. Can location tracking speed this up?

Tool booths on the Golden Gate Bridge. Can location tracking speed this up?

Aside from advertising, there are many more “slippery slope” issues of what manufacturers can do with your data. Under what circumstances will they transfer detailed time and location information to law enforcement? To insurance companies? To municipalities? To commercial enterprises? To real estate developers? Bottom line: it will be important for manufacturers to specify exactly what they are going to do with the data they collect from your car.

Second, some good news. Toyota is considering (only considering at this point) a driving mode similar to Chrome’s incognito browsing mode. Toyota said it “might someday seek to determine consumer demand for a “private driving mode” that turns off driver tracking in much the same way that private browsing modes on Web browsers temporarily stop recording a user’s Internet history.” This would be something I would turn on all the time.

Finally, the Post article quotes Toyota’s director of technology as saying that there is “little existing guidance from consumers.” Well, here’s a bit of what I want: don’t track anything and let me be completely in charge of who gets my data. After all, I’m the one who paid tens of thousands of dollars for a new car and, at this point, I just don’t see any advantages for the driver (aka the user) when car manufacturers collect and share this data. And that, in the end, may be the real impetus for owners to drive with incognito mode turned on all the time.



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