Friday, September 23, 2011

Onstar now using your driving data to record location, speed ect for any purpose at any time


The idea of a company tracking your location constantly is apparently as reassuring to some as it is disturbing to me. I understand that it can be very useful and even a life saver in some situations. However, I think that they have crossed the line where the costs outweigh the benefits greatly now that they have to total authority to record not only your locations at certain times, but speed, car safety data ect "for any purpose, at any time, to any third party as long as the data provided is anonymized" 
The changes to the TOS and reported by Reuters, were announced this week and, sent to all of their subscribers in full. Just think how many people don't read half of the mail that's from companies like that and figure its just junk mail when in reality it can have a ripple effect through all aspects of your life.
Sharing anonymized information isn’t anything new for users of online services. Unless you actually opt out, it’s likely that most of the stuff you use online is being tracked, and that data sold in some way or another. Most companies are careful about anonymizing data, but not all data can be anonymized. A GPS record is rather hard to decouple from identity, since an intact record of a day or a week will plainly yield home and workplace locations, among other things.
Cross reference that with the data they now sell to “credit card processors and/or third parties we contract with who conduct joint marketing initiatives with OnStar,” and you’ve got a nice little database of easily identifiable individuals going.
It should be noted that there’s some tension here regarding what’s private and what’s public information — certainly it can easily be found out from voting, property, and tax records where someone lives and works. And the make and model of your vehicle is easily discernible by anyone nearby.
But that’s a misleading way to think about it; customers agree to the TOS with the implicit understanding that their location and speed would be used for the services they pay for, and if necessary shared with law enforcement. Not only now does the TOS essentially say that as long as they take your name off it, they can sell your data to literally anyone who wants it, but they now will also continue to collect that data even if you don’t use OnStar.
Again, to give OnStar credit, they say right away that you can totally deactivate their data connection by telling a representative that you want to. But how many times have you had the opt-out process be as easy as they say? Why is a company with whom you have no connection other than a piece of hardware in your car, able to access that information as valuable as this and then not only use it for their own data building but sell it to whomever asks>? Police, Insurance Companies, in theory say John Doe calls and says he owns "company xyz" and wants to have all of the data gathered for a research project he is doing on future possible customers. So, onstar sells it to him because they even verified that he owns the domain name john xyz(for which he paid a whole $9.99 for the year the day before) and now he has thousands of customers that live in his target area annon information. Well, now it turns out he's actually a thief and wanted to build a data base of work schedules for houses to hit so now that he knows that this car is 100 miles away every day during the week he has a good idea of when to go. If you’re really intent on being invisible to them, search for OnStar and your vehicle make and model to find where the GPS unit is, and simply disconnect it.