If You Want Data Privacy, Don’t Drive a Car

The Mozilla Foundation's new report singles out modern cars as "the worst product category" for privacy. And they're even collecting data on your sex life.

Tesla Model Y, equipped with FSD system. View of FSD system in action with Tesla dashboard display. A new Mozilla report suggests cars like Teslas are privacy nightmare.s
Maybe having a "computer on wheels" isn't a good thing.
Edie Leong for The Washington Post via Getty Images

If you thought social media platforms were a privacy nightmare, it turns out they have nothing on cars. That’s the conclusion reached by The Mozilla Foundation, a long-running non-profit that fights for a “healthier internet” (think data privacy, open-source, etc.). The title of their new report pretty much sums it up: “It’s Official: Cars Are the Worst Product Category We Have Ever Reviewed for Privacy.”

It turns out the modern car is a data-gobbling machine. Which is not surprising, as cars like Teslas get touted as “computers on wheels.” They can watch, listen, collect information and know everything about where you go and what you do.

Mozilla researched 25 car brands for their report. Every single one of them earned a “Privacy Not Included” warning label. According to the organization, cars collect too much personal data, which goes beyond just the car’s operation and includes all the connected services and apps within the vehicle. “They can collect super intimate information about you — from your medical information, your genetic information, to your ‘sex life’ (seriously), to how fast you drive, where you drive, and what songs you play in your car — in huge quantities,” the authors wrote. (If you’re wondering, Nissan and Kia were the companies that collect information on sexual activity and sex life in their privacy policies, according to Mozilla.)

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Almost all (84%) of the car brands that were reviewed share or sell that personal data, with a majority of them willing to share your information with government or law enforcement in response to a request. As well, only European car brands Renault and Dacia allow drivers to delete that personal data. And finally, Mozilla couldn’t determine if any car brand met Mozilla’s Minimum Security Standards.

If you’re wondering about which car brand fared worse, your first guess of Tesla was 100% correct. It was only the second product Mozilla had ever reviewed to receive all of the organization’s “privacy dings” — with the car company’s AI singled out as particularly untrustworthy.

So, what can you do? Honestly, not much, as every car brand failed Mozilla’s testing. At best, you could use the organization’s car reviews section, which offers “tips to protect yourself” that are tailored to each car company. And there’s also a petition. Otherwise, California and Europe are areas that offer slightly better privacy protection than other parts of the world. Or you could try walking?

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