During the last week or so, drivers with OnStar available in their vehicles have been getting emails about changes to OnStar’s privacy statement. The changes are also available online, in a PDF that says the changes are effective as of December 2011. The main alteration that has been seized on by privacy advocates is that even if you no longer subscribe to the OnStar service, OnStar says it may still collect data from your vehicle if you don’t explicitly ask to sever the connection.
As someone who has an OnStar module in my car, but who canceled the service, I am interested in what exactly OnStar might be doing with my information. But I guess I should also explain why I canceled. For me, it was all about the money. I like the features OnStar offers, though I never used them, but the added safety net of having automatic crash notification appealed to me. But in the end I thought the service was too expensive. So what information might OnStar collect from someone who’s no longer a subscriber?
But the policy also implies that some categories of non-anonymous data could also be used in a variety of ways, one of which includes joint-marketing initiatives. In published reports, OnStar says it has not sold data yet. But the language in the policy leaves that avenue open to OnStar in the future. While no one knows what OnStar’s plans are, some people are worried about the possibility of their data being used for marketing purchases.
OnStar says all subscribers who cancel the service will have the option to also sever the two-way data connection. But the real question is whether these new privacy policies will spook some current OnStar users enough that it drives them to cancel. Privacy is a huge issue right now, especially as it relates to connected devices and the data they can collect. Tracking has become so easy and so ubiquitous that some people are a little leery of who might be watching them at any time. OnStar needs to tread lightly and make sure it doesn’t alienate any customers.