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My Privacy

Haven’t been here in a while, so I don’t know if this subject has been covered, though it seems sure it must have been touched on.

We are privacy geeks in our house. It genuinely disturbs us that there are so many electronic aspects of automobiles today that upload information to some cloud that, yes, WILL eventually be hacked. We know it can’t be entirely avoided, but we do our best to maintain our sacred privacy.

Right now, I own a Honda CR-V, 2009, which has served me well. It has no Bluetooth ( I do not have a Smartphone because I am weird like that) and only our plugged-in Garmin when I want GPS. It doesn’t even have a back facing camera. It’s just, you know, a basic CAR, but it will have to be replaced some day.

My first question is, Is it still possible to buy a decent car that doesn’t track everything but your circadian rhythm?

My second question is, If it isn’t possible to buy such a car any more (yes, I like power steering and 4WD-- we like our Subarus too) can I disconnect all that stuff and still be legal and driveable?

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My two cars are from 2009 and 2012, and neither of them have any active “trackers” that I’m aware of.

I too am very uncomfortable with all the technology being used in modern cars. While some of it is good and useful… some of it, I think, encourages over-reliance and/or could be used in a way that doesn’t always benefit me.

Given that, I’ll kerp buying older/used cars.


Question 1, No, you can’t. All cars have a data recorder at a minimum for crash reconstruction within the airbag control module. All cars have internal communication networks so the electronics can talk and share information with each other. Most all at least have Bluetooth because people want it. Not all cars have a cell phone communication onboard (OnStar and the like) that connects to the manufacturer, provides WiFi and sends your data as well as accepts updates from the manufacturer. Satellite radio transceivers (receivers? not sure) that contact Sirius are optional as is navigation.

Question 2, Disconnect? Yes, the cell connection can be disconnected and that is the primary connection transmitting data. Bluetooth? Sure, but why? Its range is very short. The internal network, no, because then nothing will run. The air-bag black box, yes, but why would you put yourself at risk just for that.

You say you have a cell phone. That tracks you through the phone company. Even a dumb-phone will provide a decent tracking history as it links from cell tower to cell tower. I don’t want to push your paranoia over the edge but you aren’t escaping it.

Me thinks you are worrying way to much . If you don’t use the internet function that is a subscription item so just don’t use it . I don’t use satellite radio but some people are crazy about it.
Apparently you are connected to the web or you would not be here so you are being tracked right now. The black box recorder in vehicles could possibly be an advantage is a court case in your favor , I hope not ever needed .
Go to Snopes web site and search articles about vehicles being hacked , it is not that simple .

Both our cars, a Toyota and a Mazda have police trackers built in. If the car is stolen, the police department can locate it instantly.

No one else has access to this site and we feel no loss of privacy. Insurance companies like this feature; so much less to pay out if the vehicle is recovered quickly.

The lady who cuts my hair had her 1990s Toyota stolen and it was used in a drive-by shooting. She was surprises to see the police at her door that evening. The car was finally recovered in unrepairable condition.

You can still buy basic cars with elaborate electronics.

No advice but just some thoughts. Older cars of tomorrow are the new cars of today, so options will be limited. Yeah they all have black boxes now. The information is supposed to be private unless in an investigation, but you know how that goes. Smart phones on all the time? You think the algorithms aren’t listening? I still have a flip phone but I’m sure I’ll have to replace it at some point. All those connected furnaces, appliances, and garage door openers, concern me a little as well as wireless phones in the house. Still use them though.

I think maybe, wishful thinking aside, with all the hoopla with Google, Facebook, etc. collecting information for commercial and political use, we may be on the verge of some new privacy laws to address some of these issues. Not to mention the credit agencies and loose security allowing hacking. You can cheaply put tracking devices on cars, listen in on conversations inside of a house and so on. There should be stiff penalties for invasions of privacy and mis-use of the information as well as stiff rules for collection and storage. The ship has probably sailed on the collection of the information. We used to use double blind rosters so that no one knew names but were identified with a code instead. Seems to me that should be mandatory as a starting point.

Geez, I thought I was the last person who still uses a flip phone.
The truth is, they are not as organized and competent as you think they are and you are not as important as you think you are.

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Understood, but maybe a little paranoid, I have always believed the statement “show me the man and I’ll show you the crime” if you happen to get targeted for one reason or another.

Probably not. But maybe you can use that fact to your advantage. If you just want to browse in a new car lot, when a salesman comes by tell him you are looking for a car without any bells or whistles. They’ll go away fast, leaving you to continue your car browsing in peace … lol …

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Although I don’t share your level of concern, I did some research on this after speaking to a designer who worked at both Toyota and Hyundai. Although you can’t get a new mainstream vehicle without some sort of device that you would worry about, almost none are “on” unless you subscribe. Here is some detail.

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The only silver lining in this privacy thing is that unless you actively do something to make yourself a target of someone, they might be collecting the data but they’re not looking at it, because they’re collecting so much data that it would be like singling out a molecule of water from Niagara Falls.

That doesn’t mean the privacy invasions won’t affect you (just wait till Progressive convinces OnStar to let them “sponsor” subscriptions in exchange for access to the data - now computers will monitor your driving and automatically raise your rates if you brake hard) but it does mean that it’s overwhelmingly likely that actual humans won’t know any more about you than they already do.

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I know a couple of people who refuse to sign-up for a supermarket loyalty card because “they collect information about you”. Yes, they do collect information, but I have a very difficult time believing that anyone–other than the supermarket itself–would find any value in learning which brands of bread and yogurt I prefer.

Like it or not, data is constantly being collected about all of us. Whether that data collection has the ability to harm us on a personal level is another issue entirely.

They are definitely “looking” at it. Sometimes as mega-data. Collecting data to determine marketing trends of the population. Travel patterns, shopping patterns, ect. All very valuable information and easy for large computers to analyze in ways we haven’t even discovered yet.

But sometimes as individual data, too! That same computer technology can discriminate individual customers. A friend’s wife bought a pair of shorts at a chain store. When she later wore them back to the same store, the RFID tag on the shorts was read by the scanners at the door and she was greeted, by name, by a salesperson. You car data can be identified the same way. Harmful, well, no. Creepy, well maybe…

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Yes. The loyalty cards data collection is quite valuable for inventory management, advertising effectiveness, etc. I only have a Safeway Club Card and used it a few days ago for the first time in over 3 years.

But even in the shorts example, humans didn’t know anything about her. The clerk was told by a computer to say “Hi Soandso.” The clerk wasn’t given any real information about her (and would have learned her name if she bought something and paid with a check or credit card)- it’s all computers talking to each other and occasionally using a human as a mouthpiece. Nothing more.

Well, yes, but it was individual data and the clerk also suggested items on sale that this person had purchased in the past. Sort of like an old-time sales associate that actually knows the customer rather than being given a computer “crib.”

I don’t really have any issues with this. Just pointing out the mega portion AND the personal portion are actively being used. Again, not that I want to feed the OP’s paranoia but it’s out there.

I do have an Android type phone meant for children, which cannot connect to the Internet. The only reason I have it is because texting on it is easier than on my flip phone-- you know, pressing a digit multiple times to get a letter. Can’t download any apps on it. We recently rented for vacay a Ford which had just about every electronic gewgaw you can imagine. It looked like the Starship Enterprise inside and was way too glittering with lights at night. Hated it.

But, your point is taken.

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Here’s what’s got me concerned: I know that I am a nobody and that it will likely never happen to me personally, but the idea that has been on the news that my car might be hacked and taken out of my control WHILE DRIVING IT scares me. If not me, it could happen to SOMEONE. If this can be done now by pros, it will be done later by amateurs, and it might be done not to me personally but to a targeted group. Why isn’t anyone working on a secure lock to this info? And, although I don’t mind TOO much that engine info is sent to the manufacturer, why can’t I get a car without all this stuff? Shouldn’t I be able to order, you know, just a plain car that gets me from point A to B?

Furthermore, when these electronics fail, they are expensive to replace.

Not going to happen because you are in the minority. Most people , myself included like bells and whistles. I guess you could start attending the classic cars auctions and look for a restored Checker Marathon or something similar.
As for the hacking do as I suggested before and go to the snopes web site .

Unless you own a vehicle that has a connection to the web/internet or phone…then you have ZERO to worry about.

Bluetooth is only for a very local direct connection.

I really don’t know of any vehicle that’s tracking anything you do that’s automatically going out of your vehicle. You are just being Absurdly paranoid.

Ah - No. this only happens when you’re making a call…or texting. There is no passive tracking of your cell phone…or recorded records of where your cell phone is. There are apps you can buy to keep track of a phone (i.e. your kids phone).

With Autonomous vehicles coming - that’s a whole new ball game.