Is your car watching you? A look at vehicles collecting data

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Is your car watching you? When you get in the driver’s seat, you’re probably thinking about where you’re going and not what your vehicle is learning about you along the way.

“My car probably knows that I’ve gained seven pounds in the last few months,” said Charles Palmer, who teaches at Harrisburg University.

The interactive media professor says vehicles collect and store data about drivers more than you may think. That information can range from how often you hit the brakes to where your car is parked and when.

Palmer says it all depends on the manufacturer and which sensors and tools the car has inside.

“The auto industry essentially has told the FTC that, ‘Hey, we’re collecting this, but we’re going to be really good stewards of this information,’ but that’s it. There’s no real policy in place for it,” Palmer said.

Some people think the technology is interesting, while others find it invasive.

“The technology is good in one way but also it could be a defeat in the end,” said Cory Jackson of Greensburg. “I’m not trusting of the auto industry with my information.”

“Technology, it’s great,” said Luke Kordick, a Harrisburg visitor. “It’s a good leap forward. Cons and people can track us and it’s kind of scary.”

Palmer tells us people often sign away their rights to their car’s data to manufacturers and their partners in purchasing or leasing agreements. He says while the information can be extremely helpful in areas like planning and development, there is a chance for data breaches. The professor says having driver’s locations and habits get into the wrong hands can be a problem.

“Companies now have to store and protect that information and what happens if someone gets access to that,” Palmer said. “At some point, they’ll turn around and say there’s value here to this particular company or this company over here and we’re going to share or sell this information.”

Palmer says don’t panic, but pay attention to what you sign and which information you give out.

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