Car Security and Privacy: Navigating Modern Concerns

These days, vehicles are not just methods of transport but also sophisticated computers on wheels. As such, issues related to privacy and data security have become increasingly critical. With this in mind, let’s explore the privacy challenges faced by modern car owners by illuminating the types of data at risk, then examine strategies to safeguard your personal information.

In-Car Security

The Exposure of Personal Data

There are several ways your personal information is shared with your car, often without your knowledge.

Navigation Systems and Your Location

Modern vehicles come equipped with navigation systems that can store your home address and track recently navigated locations. While convenient, this feature can pose a privacy risk if accessed by unauthorized persons like valets or mechanics. Moreover, some vehicles track frequently traveled locations, creating a detailed log of your movements.

Connectivity and Mobile Data

Cars with Bluetooth or connected services capabilities can access and store extensive amounts of personal data from your mobile devices. This includes contact lists, call logs, text messages, and even emails. While manufacturers claim this data is secure, the potential for unauthorized access remains if proper precautions are not taken.

Event Data Recorders (EDRs)

Nearly all new vehicles contain EDRs or “black boxes” that record various data points like speed, brake application, and seatbelt usage in the event of a crash. While this data is meant to be private and is owned by the vehicle’s owner, there are scenarios where it can be accessed by external parties, such as insurance companies and law enforcement, with the owner’s permission.

automotive telematics

Privacy Risks from Car Manufacturers and Third Parties

Manufacturers are not the only ones who can access your data. Third-party sources also present a risk.

Data Collection and Usage

Car manufacturers have been critiqued for collecting more personal data than necessary, using it for purposes beyond vehicle operation and maintenance. This includes sharing data with third parties like data brokers or government entities under vague terms, often without the explicit consent of the owner.

Lack of Control Over Personal Data

Most car brands give drivers minimal control over their personal data. Only a couple of brands allow drivers to fully delete their data, and this is mostly in compliance with stringent European privacy laws like the GDPR. Those laws, however, do not apply in the United States.

Security Standards and Data Breaches

There is also a notable lack of transparency and adherence to minimum security standards among car manufacturers. Many do not confirm whether all personal data stored in vehicles is encrypted, raising concerns about the potential for data breaches and hacking.

car security

Protecting Your Privacy: Solutions and Best Practices

All is not lost when it comes to protecting your privacy. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

Managing Your Car’s Digital Footprint

Navigation Privacy: Avoid storing your actual home address in the navigation system. Instead, use a nearby public location or engage the valet mode, which locks out personal data access.

Delete Data Regularly: Make it a habit to delete the history of recently navigated locations and any personal data stored temporarily by your vehicle.

Control Connected Features: Disable connectivity features like Bluetooth and location services when they are not needed, especially when handing over the vehicle to a third party.

Opting Out and Taking Control

There are methods for controlling your data, but you need to take action.

Review Privacy Settings: Familiarize yourself with the privacy settings available in your vehicle and adjust them to minimize data sharing.

Opt-Out of Data Sharing: Where possible, opt-out of data sharing agreements provided by your vehicle manufacturer and related third-party services.

Secure Personal Data: Use strong, unique PINs for any security features like valet mode and ensure any sensitive information is encrypted.

car security

Regular Security Checks

Never make changes and forget them. Instead, take a proactive approach to ensure your data remains secure.

Stay Informed: Keep abreast of any updates from your car manufacturer about privacy policies and data breaches.

Update Systems Regularly: Ensure that your vehicle’s software is up-to-date to protect against vulnerabilities.

Use Secure Networks: When updating your vehicle’s software or downloading data, use secure, private networks to prevent unauthorized access.

Legal Rights and Advocacy

All is not lost when it comes to vehicle security. There are legal steps you can take to protect yourself.

Know Your Rights: Understand your legal rights concerning data privacy in your jurisdiction, particularly concerning access to and deletion of personal data.

Advocate for Better Practices: Support advocacy groups and legislation that push for stronger privacy protections and transparency from vehicle manufacturers.

Protect Your Data

In summation, while modern vehicles offer unprecedented convenience and connectivity, they also pose significant privacy risks. By understanding these risks and taking proactive steps to protect personal data, drivers can enjoy the benefits of modern technology without sacrificing their privacy.


Caltrider, J., Rykov, M., & MacDonald, Z. (2023, September 6). It’s Official: Cars Are the Worst Product Category We Have Ever Reviewed for Privacy. Mozilla Foundation.

Edmunds. (n.d.). Car Technology and Privacy. Retrieved [2024, April 29], from Edmunds.

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Images under license from Adobe Stock.

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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