Car Industry’s New Code Requires Drivers’ Consent To Share Location Data

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Car manufacturers won't be able to provide precise geolocations for automobiles to marketers without drivers' opt-in consent under a new privacy code adopted by the industry.

The code also requires consumers' explicit consent before information about their driving skills — including how fast they go, and braking patterns — is revealed to marketers and other third parties. The principles also require car companies to disclose their privacy policies.

But the new privacy principles allow companies to share data about consumers for a host of purposes, including internal research and determining whether consumers have complied with warranties.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Association of Global Automakers signed off on the code, which was presented to the FTC last week. Between them, the groups count 19 companies as members, including Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.

The privacy code comes nearly one year after the U.S. General Accountability Office issued a report examining data collection by automakers and navigation companies. That report criticized the companies for offering consumers only vague and “broadly worded” explanations of their data-sharing practices.

“Without clear disclosures, risks increase that data may be collected or shared for purposes that the consumer is not expecting or might not have agreed to,” the GAO report stated.

The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog was unenthusiastic about the new code.

“I'm not very impressed,” John Simpson, director of the group's privacy project, tells Daily Online Examiner. He points out that even though the code requires disclosure, it allows car manufacturers to notify consumers via online Web portals. “If you're buying a car, I don't know that you should have to go to a Web site to get briefed on what's going on,” he says.

“It's a voluntary code, created by people with the most interest in having the least prescriptive approach as possible,” he adds.

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