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Last week, details surfaced of OnStar’s revised Terms and Conditions that allows the company to perform private data tracking on vehicles equipped with their device, whether the owner is a subscriber for OnStar’s service or not.
Even though OnStar, a telematics subsidiary of GM, had written a press release to assure customers that its two-way connection would only be used to alert vehicle occupants of an emergency weather condition that might necessitate evacuation or inform owners of recalls for their car, New York Democrat Senator Charles Schumer still felt it was necessary to call them out. “By tracking drivers even after they’ve canceled their service, OnStar is attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory. I urge OnStar to abandon this policy and for (the Federal Trade Commission) to immediately launch a full investigation to determine whether the company’s actions constitute an unfair trade practice.”
Senator Schumer and a significant number of others are skeptical of OnStar’s intent to use this powerful technology only for the benefit of vehicle owners equipped with OnStar. Vice President of GM OnStar, Joanne Finorn, has made assurances that no private information has been sold. However, Finorn adds that if OnStar chooses to sell their information in the future, the data would be aggregated and no individual information would be for sale.
Recently it has been revealed that owners of GM vehicles equipped with OnStar, whether subscribed to the service or not, risk the involuntary disclosure of private and sensitive data collected from the vehicle’s GPS unit.
A strong backlash ensued as critics accused OnStar of selling private information including vehicle speed, location, and seatbelt usage, to law enforcement, insurance companies, and traffic surveyors.
OnStar responded with a press release regarding the matter. Joanne Finnorn, Vice President of Onstar Subscriber Services, wrote a statement assuring that, “Onstar will maintain a two-way connection to their vehicle unless they ask us not to do so… This connection may provide us with the capability to alert vehicle occupants about severe weather conditions or mandatory evacuations… If the customer requests us to turn off the two-way connection, we will do so as we have always done, and that is to honor customer’s requests… We have never sold any personally identifiable information to any third party.”