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July 26, 2012 / Admin

OnStar Begins Selling Recorded User Information

OnStar, an in-vehicle security, communications, and navigation system for GM vehicles, altered its terms and conditions this week. Formerly, OnStar only used customer GPS data for recovering stolen vehicles, providing user-requested directions, and contacting emergency services in case of a vehicle collision. The new terms and conditions allow OnStar to sell customer data, including GPS location data, speed, seatbelt use, and other information. OnStar claims that all sold data will be anonymous. Potential interested parties include law enforcement and insurance companies. Worse, this data will be transmitted even if the customer cancels his or her service. The only way to prevent the data from being transferred is to contact OnStar directly to opt out or manually disable the data transmitter.

Potentially, OnStar’s service can be useful even if the vehicle’s owner is not a subscriber. OnStar can remotely disable stolen vehicles. Their recent press release, discouraging the manual disconnection of OnStar hardware, claims that they will provide alerts to severe weather conditions and recall or warranty issues.

Some people are suspicious of the limits of OnStar’s data collection powers, claiming that OnStar could use the two-way communications in GM vehicles for nefarious purposes. Also, “anonymous” data is rarely totally anonymous, as many people use their vehicles primarily to drive between work and home. Thus, law enforcement and insurance companies could keep closer eyes on GM customers than most people would be comfortable with.

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