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It’s Your Car. Shouldn’t It Be Your Data?

Source: Auto Care Association

In January, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke out in TIME about a consumer’s right to access and control their personal data and demanded Congress protect that right. In his piece, Cook argues:

“In 2019 it’s time to stand up for the right to privacy — yours, mine, all of ours. Consumers shouldn’t have to tolerate another year of companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles, data breaches that seem out of control and the vanishing ability to control our own digital lives.”

I couldn’t agree more.

He did this against the rising consumer techIash and during a time when governments near (California) and far (the European Union) passed regulations ensuring a consumer’s right to privacy.

For more than two decades, I’ve worked in the auto care industry, which represents the automotive aftermarket businesses that help keep cars on the road. Simply put, I work with and on behalf of the people who service your car once it’s driven off the lot.

And while not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, accessing vehicle data is an essential component in the care and maintenance of any vehicle, and like consumer data privacy, is an urgent issue that demands attention.

However, the broader issue — the one Cook argues — is about something more fundamental: the urgent need to empower consumers with the ability to know what data is being collected and where it’s going. Perhaps most importantly, it’s about your ability — and basic right — to have full control over any data generated by your actions or the products you use.

You may not have heard about it yet — three out of four consumers haven’t — but with vehicles, the issue is similar. Vehicles today collect vast amounts of data including GPS location, driving behavior and vehicle health information, and transmit that data in real time, directly to vehicle manufacturers. In fact, according to IHS Markit, by 2022, 87 percent of vehicles in the United States will be equipped with this technology, known as “telematics” or vehicle data.

For the average person, this is great news. Vehicle data allows for a speedy and accurate diagnosis of many problems a vehicle might have. But there’s a catch: what happens if the mechanic down the street, who has been servicing your car for years, can’t get that data from the vehicle manufacturer?

Shouldn’t the person who owns or leases the vehicle be the one who decides who gets that data?

The current discussion about data access and control is touching many aspects of our lives, from our smart phones to our credit card records, and now to our cars. Often the data that’s generated in our lives becomes a commodity — sold to a third party who will use it for reasons both known and unknown — and without the knowledge of the person who generated it. As he wrote in his piece, “we think every user should have the chance to say, ‘wait a minute. That’s my information that you’re selling, and I didn’t consent.’”

Transparency should be a common denominator for all data discussions that take place today and could impact us tomorrow. You have the right to know what data of yours is shared — and the right to say how it’s used. We’re nearing the point where industries and policymakers are poised to set regulations and standards that will dictate the future of consumer data ownership, access and control. It’s essential for Americans to make their voices heard, and for government and industry to put consumers first. To quote Tim Cook again:

“As this debate kicks off, there will be plenty of proposals and competing interests for policymakers to consider. We cannot lose sight of the most important constituency: individuals trying to win back their right to privacy. Technology has the potential to keep changing the world for the better, but it will never achieve that potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it.”

Let’s not lose that trust before it’s too late. You have the power to do something. You can help affect change. Start by visiting yourcaryourdata.orgfor more information.

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