Your Car’s Navigation System Is Sharing Your Data Too

Report finds a lack of transparency among navigation providers

A new government report concludes that in-car navigation systems may be driving away with too much data about drivers’ whereabouts.

The report on in-car location-based services like Garmin, OnStar and Google Maps found that while such companies are taking some steps to protect consumers’ privacy, they need to do more to inform consumers how they use and share location data.

The GAO report was based on information provided by 10 companies representing auto manufacturers, portable navigation device companies and developers of map and navigation apps for mobile devices.

Of the 10 companies, nine share data with third parties, including traffic information providers, but they fail to provide specific disclosures about why data is collected and shared. While the companies obtain consent to collect location data, they don't give consumers the option to delete data that's retained.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the privacy, technology and the law subcommittee, had requested the report from the Government Accountability Office and, based on its findings, he plans to reintroduce location privacy legislation that came out of the judiciary committee in December 2012.

Franken, who successfully persuaded OnStar to reverse its policy to retain consumer information from former subscribers, said companies need to be more forthcoming about their data practices.

“Modern technology now allows drivers to get turn-by-turn directions in a matter of seconds, but our privacy laws haven’t kept pace with these enormous advances,” said Franken. “Companies providing in-car location services are taking their customers’ privacy seriously—but this report shows that Minnesotans and people across the country need much more information about how the data are being collected, what they’re being used for, and how they’re being shared with third parties. … It’s just common sense that all companies should get their customers’ clear permission before they collect or share their location information.”