VANCOUVER — The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) has released a year-long study on privacy, consumer choice and onboard vehicle technology.

The Connected Car: Who is in the Driver’s Seat? looks at how vehicles have changed from simple means of transportation to computers on wheels. A new generation of ‘Connected Cars’ is capable of remarkable feats, from navigation to diagnosing vehicle health, monitoring driver behavior and providing customized on-board infotainment services.

“Through telematics and wireless connectivity, cars are collecting and processing enormous amounts of data,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “More and more of this data is personal information, and some of it reveals intensely private details of a person’s life.”

Data culled from vehicles can be used for safety, monitoring, customer relationship management and the new usage-based insurance programs offered in some Canadian provinces. Yet the same technologies that allow for safer, more convenient and more entertaining cars can be used to track and profile customers for marketing and other purposes.

“Some of the data collected and transmitted for data-mining and market research is simply not necessary for services and applications to work,” said the report’s head researcher and privacy lawyer Pippa Lawson.

“It opens the door to a range of privacy risks that include security breaches, malicious access and state surveillance.”

The report finds that the usage-based insurance programs now offered in Ontario and Quebec generally comply with Canadian privacy law, but automakers providing Connected Car services are failing to meet their legal obligations. Too often, consumers are given limited choice when it comes to the use and disclosure of their personal data collected by Connected Cars.

“The good news is that there’s still time to address these privacy challenges” said Gogolek, “but with Connected Cars set to mass-penetrate North American markets in the coming years, we need to get serious about setting industry standards and putting guidelines in place.”

Click here to download the full report.