by Constantine von Hoffman

Is Your Car Spying on You?

Sep 22, 20113 mins
Data and Information SecuritySecurity

OnStar is collecting a lot of information about drivers, even after the device is turned off.

General Motors and OnStar have opened up a whole new front in the war on privacy. OnStar’s new EULA gives it the right to sell information about you gathered from your car. Even if you no longer subscribe to OnStar.

GM OnStar Privacy Changes
OnStar makes chilling changes to its privacy policy.

This information comes courtesy of Jonathan Zdziarski who actually read a Terms & Conditions update put out by the company. (I would say he needs to get a life, except that I am grateful for his lack thereof.)

According to the new privacy policy,

Unless the Data Connection in your Vehicle is deactivated, information about your Vehicle may continue to be collected even if you do not have a Plan.


Of course they wouldn’t be doing this without a good reason: Making money.

We may use the information we collect about you and your Vehicle to improve the quality of our Service and offerings and may share the information we collect with law enforcement or other public safety officials, credit card processors and/or third parties we contract with who conduct joint marketing initiatives with OnStar.

I love the phrase, “Improve the quality of our service and offerings.” You could drive a herd of elephants through that clause and leave plenty of room on either side.

“Share” is another great word. That means we will sell everything we can possibly learn about you to anyone with a few nickels to rub together. If they could figure out a way to collect our DNA they’d do it in a second.

Trust them? Sure I do. Why they told me

Nothing is more important than the safety and security of you and your family. At OnStar, we apply that belief to every aspect of our business, including the protection of your personal information.

There is one group the company won’t charge for this information. As if the government doesn’t already have enough ways to abrogate the 4th Amendment.

And the government is doing its best to make sure no one takes any of those ways away. That’s why it has fought tooth and nail to protect The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 from even being questioned by the citizens or the judiciary. After three years of trials, a court has finally decided that citizens do have standing to challenge the law – even though they can’t prove it harmed them. That was a pretty neat Catch 22. It was impossible for them to prove harm because they couldn’t get the information about how the government has used FISA.

Things have gotten so bad on this that two senators, Ron Wyden (D-ORE) and Mark Udall (D-COL), have come as close as they can to blowing the whistle without breaking the law. Both are on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and both have made ominous but vague warnings about the government’s actions.

“I want to deliver a warning this afternoon,” Wyden said on May 26 during a Senate debate. “When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.”

He also said that he couldn’t elaborate any further on this because of official secrecy laws.

I hope he doesn’t drive a Buick.