According to a joint statement issued today, Consumer Watchdog joined Privacy International and other public interest groups in an international call for car rental companies to protect the privacy of driver and passenger data their rented vehicles collect.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

"Today's cars are little more than rolling computers that amass huge amounts of information," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's privacy and technology project director.  "When you rent a car, you must have the right to control how that extremely revealing data is used."

Privacy International, Consumer Watchdog and the other groups sent joint letters to rental car companies and auto manufacturers telling them that:

•    Car rental companies and carshare services should delete driver and passenger information when drivers return cars.
•    They should provide clear and simple instructions to customers about how they can delete their personal data, as well as any passenger's data.
•    Car rental companies and carshare services should minimize their data processing and only process personal data with driver/passenger unambiguous consent, or if strictly necessary for the delivery of the service.
•    They should adopt privacy-by-design, including taking measures to protect personal data from unauthorized access.
•    Car manufacturers should also make removal of all personal data clear and simple for drivers and passengers to do, with a data deletion button.

The groups' letters came after an in-depth study, "Connected Cars: What Happens to Our Data on Rental Cars," by the London-based Privacy International.  The report was also given to the United Kingdom's Information Commissioner.

The report noted:
"The car industry is undergoing seismic change. Autonomous vehicles grab the headlines. Yet in conversations around the Internet of Things, the increasingly connected nature of transportation receives insufficient attention. The focus is on the home and work place. Yet cars, still considered private places, are the next gold rush for data miners, with a variety of different companies hungry for your data. Thus, there are a wide variety of privacy-related implications of connected cars, from those that are super connected, to those with basic infotainment systems."

Read Privacy International's research report here.