Groups Skeptical Of Auto Makers’ Privacy Pledge

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WASHINGTON (Dec. 16, 2014) — Auto makers’ formal pledge to protect the privacy of consumers is inadequate for that purpose, according to the Auto Care Association (ACA) and advocacy group Consumer Watchdog.

The Alliance of American Manufacturers (AAM) and the Association of Global Auto makers (AGA) recently issued their “Consumer Privacy Protection Principles.”

In that document, auto makers vowed to:

• Ensure their privacy practices are clear and transparent to consumers;

• Provide extra protection for the most sensitive types of consumer information, such as information about how and where they drive; and

• State clearly the limited circumstances under which they may share information with the government.

“Auto makers believe that strong consumer data privacy protections are essential to maintaining the trust of our consumers,” said Mitch Bainwol, AAM president and CEO. “Our Privacy Principles reflect a major step in protecting personal information collected in the vehicle.”

But Bethesda, Md.-based ACA, while applauding the auto makers’ efforts, said the principles fail to offer consumers any choices regarding the information available from their vehicles.

“Car owners are at the mercy of the vehicle manufacturers as to where information on their vehicle is sent,” the trade group said.

In many cases, vehicle owners prefer to take their cars to independent auto repairers, with whom they often have long-term relationships based on trust, according to the ACA.

“Since these third parties often compete with a franchised dealer, it is unlikely that the data produced by a car owner’s vehicle will be made available by a manufacturer to an independent service entity,” it said.

The association urged auto makers to build into their vehicles a secure gateway that will allow motorists to transmit vehicle information to third-party repairers.

The principles demonstrate that auto makers are finally acknowledging the vast amount of personal information generated by modern vehicles, according to Consumer Watchdog. But those principles do little to help the situation, it said.

“The broad principles…sound good, but the rest of the document that explains how they will be implemented reads like it was written by lawyers paid by the word to obfuscate the issues,” said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project. “It is full of loopholes.”

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