Experts have revealed the myriad ways that your car can spy on your personal habits.
Automakers track your vehicle’s location, how fast you drive, what entertainment you listen to, through internet-connected systems in modern cars.
Newer cars can even record a driver’s eye movements, the weight of people in the front seats, the weather on your street, and where you prefer to eat.
Companies use personal information collected from tens of millions of vehicles around the globe – and many keep tight-lipped about what they use the data for.
Some privacy experts say modern cars collect enough data about drivers that profiles as unique as fingerprints could be developed, which could then be sold to marketing firms.
Specifically, a vehicle’s location data poses the greatest risk to customers and their privacy, according to Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum.
Ms Dixon told the Washington Post: ‘Most people don’t realise how deeply ingrained their habits are and how where we park our car on a regular basis can tell someone many things about us.
‘There’s a load of anti-fraud companies and law enforcement agencies that would love to purchase this data, which can reveal our most intimate habits.’
There are around 78 million cars on the road connected to the internet in some way, according to ABI Research.
Within the next three years, 98 per cent of new cars sold in Europe and the United States will be connected, according to the technology research firm Gartner.
Lisa Joy Rosner, chief marketing officer of Otonomo, a company that sells connected-car data, said: ‘The thing that car manufacturers realise now is that they’re not only hardware companies anymore – they’re software companies.
‘The first space shuttle contained 500,000 lines of software code, but compare that to Ford’s projection that by 2020 their vehicles will contain 100 million lines of code.’
Car companies claim the data they collect is used to improve performance and safety, and argue that no data is shared with third parties without permission.
Legal experts claim that, while car companies are required by law to acquire customers’ consent before sharing information, more legislature is needed to protect consumers as technology advances.
Dr Ryan Calo, an associate professor of law at the University of Washington, said: ‘Not only are automakers collecting a lot of data, they don’t have a particular regime that is regulating how they do it.
‘Any company that has tons of data about consumers and can control the interaction with them is going to have the capability and incentive to try to use that information to the company’s advantage – and possibly to the detriment of consumers. It’s almost unavoidable.’
A 2014 report from the US Government Accountability Office found that several major automakers and GPS manufacturers were collecting data about drivers’ whereabouts.
The information was gathered from on-board navigation systems, and was kept by the firms for varying lengths of time.
The report focused on the big three Detroit automakers, Toyota, Honda and Nissan, as well as GPS manufacturers Garmin and TomTom, and app developers Google Maps and Telenav.
According to the report, the companies ‘track where consumers are, which can in turn be used to steal their identity, stalk them or monitor them without their knowledge.
‘In addition, location data can be used to infer other sensitive information about individuals such as their religious affiliation or political activities.’