Modern cars emerge as the newest privacy concern, according to Mozilla study

A hot potato: In more news that suggests car manufacturers might want to slow down on the amount of tech they pack into their vehicles, a study by the Mozilla Foundation has declared that modern cars are a privacy nightmare.

Researchers Jen Caltrider, Misha Rykov, and Zoë MacDonald write that cars are officially the worst product category they have ever reviewed for privacy.

The authors spent 600 hours researching 25 car brands, finding that all of them collect too much personal data and use it for a reason other than to operate your vehicle and manage their relationship with the customer.

Vehicle companies are able to collect a slew of data on users from a variety of sources: the car’s connected services, its companion app, and third-party sources like Sirius XM or Google Maps.

The data that is collected ranges from where you drive, how fast you drive, and what songs you play, to intimate details like genetic information and your sex life.

Nissan’s privacy policy says it can collect sensitive privacy information such as sexual orientation and sexual activity. It’s also one of six companies that say they can collect “genetic information” or “genetic characteristics.”

A worrying 84% of the companies in the study share customer data, while 76% say they can sell it. Over half (56%) also say they can share your information with the government or law enforcement in response to a “request.”

Only two companies give users the right to have their personal data deleted. These were Renault and Dacia, which are owned by the same parent company and neither of whom sells their cars in the US.

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Tesla, whose privacy policy states that it “never sells or rents your data to third-party companies,” scored worst out of all the auto manufacturers, receiving demerits in data use, data control, track record, security, and AI. Elon Musk’s firm is only the second product the researchers have ever reviewed to receive all five privacy “dings” – the other was an AI Chatbot. Tesla does allow users to opt out of data collection, but warns that doing so “may result in your vehicle suffering from reduced functionality, serious damage, or inoperability.”

Mozilla suggests that the only solution to the problem of car manufacturers collecting more data than necessary is to increase awareness in the hope that it will encourage others to hold these companies accountable for their privacy practices. Mozilla is also asking car firm to stop their huge data collection programs and has launched a petition for others to lend their support, which you can sign here.