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Connectivity

Driver Safety Trumps Data Security, Survey Indicates

by Nathan Eddy
Connected car buyers have strong interest in sharing personal data for services such as maintenance warnings, traffic updates and location-based apps, despite concerns over data security.

These were among the findings of a recent Edison Research survey, which also revealed car manufacturers are among the most trusted industries in terms of how they treat customer data.

The study, which is based on an online poll of 1,070 people, found 71% of new car buyers and 77% of connected car owners feel "confident" or "somewhat confident" car manufacturers would properly secure their data.

Transparency and trust appear critical to consumer confidence, with 64% of respondents stating they want to be told exactly what data is being collected, how it is being used and by whom.

The survey also revealed an extremely high acceptance of advanced technology in cars, with approximately 90% of survey respondents believing this technology is making cars safer.

Consumers also appear keen on the development of specific service offerings, like real-time alerts of dangerous driving conditions, early detection of maintenance and repairs and faster response times from emergency responders.

Nearly 80% of respondents reported that technology is also making it more fun to drive or be a passenger, and new car buyers appear to be similarly interested in the same safety-related features as those who are already owners.

When it comes to the types of data required by navigation apps, survey respondents were broadly comfortable with the collection of information about their location, speed and destination.

"This study underscores that consumers recognize the benefits of connected car features, and are inclined to share the data that enables them with entities they trust," Lauren Smith, policy counsel for The Future of Privacy Forum, wrote in a June 6 statement.

Smith added that for connected car companies to continue earning that trust, they should communicate the purposes of such data collection and use and incorporate privacy choices and safeguards.

Last year, as part of a research project, Privacy International rented a number of Internet-connected cars in a bid to explore how information is collected and stored on their infotainment systems.

Every vehicle the organization rented exhibited serious privacy flaws when it came to personal data. The cars contained information about previous and current drivers, including locations visited and smartphone contacts.

Over in Europe, carmakers are struggling to preserve their data collection habits -- since the introduction in the European Union of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) two years ago, many car manufacturers and OEMS have been struggling to find ways to continue collecting data from the vehicles without stepping on any of the law's landmines.

In May, Chinese researchers from Tencent's KeenLab discovered exploitable security vulnerabilities in several BMW models, which have since been patched but highlight the security issues involving connected vehicles.

Vulnerabilities were spread across three main areas, including the Internet-connected infotainment systems providing satellite navigation and vehicle diagnostic information, the telematics control unit, which includes software allowing a vehicle's location to be tracked, and the central gateway module, which controls data flow between various electrical components in the vehicles.

Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.

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