Your Car May Be Storing More Data About You Than You’d Like

As with all technology, privacy has become a concern in recent years. Things like smart home features, security cameras, and Amazon Alexa come to mind. However, one might not think twice about the data their vehicle has access to. Unfortunately, there’s a good reason for you to be worried about that, too. Modern cars have all sorts of integrated technology that store your information. Often, the data goes a bit more into detail than you might like.

Driving habits, phone call records, and even photos may stay with your car

Man driving car and checking the smartphone in first person view.
Man driving car and checking smartphone | Getty Images

According to The Herald, some cars track your driving habits and store a lot of information that you wouldn’t necessarily want others to have access to.

A Washington Post reporter gained access to the engine control unit (ECU) of his 2017 Chevrolet Volt with some assistance from a car computer expert. The car kept track of who was driving it by using Bluetooth to determine which users were in the vehicle while it was being driven. Then, it stores the driving data like hard braking, acceleration, speed, etc. Tesla vehicles do this, too, but their drivers are aware of it. It’s a bit of a different story when there’s no knowledge of it happening.

It gets worse, though. On the ECU, they also found images from the reporter’s phone. It wasn’t just a fluke, either. The reporter purchased a used ECU off of eBay and dug into it as well. On that ECU, they found call records and contact details. Additionally, they could see what gas station the previous owner frequently stopped at and what restaurant they frequented.

The interior of the 2022 Hyundai Inoqic 5 EV crossover data and infotainment.
Hyundai Ioniq 5 | Hyundai

Of course, that also means that the vehicle is tracking location data. That’s relatively unsurprising, considering many cars have built-in GPS navigation. Obviously, if your GPS has ever picked up on your typical stops and offers a shortcut to navigate to that location, you’d know the information is being stored. Slightly concerning, though, is the thought that anyone might be able to access your car’s ECU and see your home and work locations with stored data.

Component usage and voice commands tracking may also be in use

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior
2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior | Honda

Slightly less concerning is a vehicle’s tracking of component use. In fact, this can be pretty helpful. The Herald’s article outlines things like oil level, coolant temperature, and tire pressure data that are constantly monitored and recorded. Unless you’re trying to sell a car you know has been poorly maintained (and are trying to hide it), there’s not really a downside to this info being tracked.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, though, comes voice commands. Many modern vehicles allow you to control just about anything from climate to navigation with voice commands. Those commands might be getting recorded, though. According to the Onstar privacy statement, it may collect “voice command information.” Onstar comes standard on many GM vehicles like Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC. It seems, perhaps, GM has a bit of a nosey problem.

Ultimately, there’s no real way to know what vehicles track your moves and information. So, if it’s that big of a concern, you may want to consider driving a classic car instead! After all, a carburetor isn’t going to record your voice!

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