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What to know about protecting your car data privacy

How to protect your data privacy in your vehicle
How to protect your data privacy in your vehicle 03:47

(CBS DETROIT) – Reports claim that our vehicles may be collecting vast amounts of our personal data, information that could be shared with advertisers, data brokers, insurance companies and beyond. To protect your data, privacy experts say you could consider holding off on getting all the connected extras that come with new vehicles. 

"Delete the app or don't download the app. If you buy a new car and the dealer tries to pressure you to download the app or sign up for the connected services, don't do that. You can do that at any time later, so you'll be able to go home and do your research before you sign up for that," said Jen Caltrider, the program director at the Mozilla Foundation's "Privacy Not Included."

She said for that car already in your driveway, it can be harder to limit what data it can collect about you.

"There's no option when you get your car to say, 'I only want data collection done for safety reasons. And any other data that you can collect, please don't collect, please don't monetize, delete it.' That's usually not an option for the cars we reviewed."

Some car companies do allow consumers to adjust connectivity settings, and drivers can read about how in their car's privacy policy. But opting out of all data sharing isn't always possible.

"A lot of times, you can't. If you try and disable some of the cellular data sharing or Wi-Fi data sharing, it may void your warranty," said Caltrider.

Caltrider said drivers could try requesting their data be deleted, but that depends on the type of car and your state's privacy laws. She said that is why strong consumer federal privacy laws are needed.

"The fact that our cars no longer mean independence, and freedom, and privacy. You can't sing at the top of the lungs anymore without somebody watching you. Or have that private conversation with your child. Or make out in the back seat. Or drive somewhere as a teenager, knowing that you're not being tracked. I don't think that that's good for us as a society. I think that yes, maybe in some ways we're safer, but in a lot of ways we're also doing ourselves harm."

And she said all the data collection we're seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg.

"There's actually companies out there that are working on technology to use those in cameras cars to try and learn our emotions. Under the guise of 'we want to build an empathetic car that can know how you're reacting to this song or driving by this building. Or things like that can tell your mood or know your emotions."

Reading through your car's privacy policy could be a good first step in understanding what data is being collected. But it's not just your car. Your radio apps, GPS, and On-Star services all have their own privacy and data collection policies.

Caltrider said new technology is far outpacing privacy law. While there are no federal data privacy laws, some states have passed comprehensive privacy legislation. Michigan is not one of them, though it does have more narrow consumer privacy laws in effect. 

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