How Your Smart Car Tracks You and Why It Matters

Published Categorized as Guide
Interactive transparent window screen in a smart car

As we navigate the roads in our modern smart cars, we’re not just steering a vehicle; we’re unwittingly propelling ourselves into a realm of extensive data collection. Our cars, now akin to rolling data centers, quietly accumulate a treasure trove of information about us. From our driving habits to biometric details, smart cars delve deep into our lives, often without us realizing it. In this journey through the data-driven highways, we’ll explore what your car knows, how your smart car tracks you, and why it has become a privacy nightmare.

What Your Car Knows

Every flick of the turn signal, each tap on the brake, and even the act of unlocking the doors sends a digital message through your car’s intricate internal network. Since the 1970s, cars have housed computers, but today’s smart cars are in a league of their own. McKinsey predicts that by 2030, up to 95% of new vehicles sold worldwide will be connected.

How Your Car Collects Data

Telematics: Braking intensity, acceleration, and even door openings contribute to a detailed driver profile. Telematics, the art of monitoring driving behavior, underpins incentives like good-driver discounts.

Connected Services and Devices: Your car’s dashboard services, mobile app, and external data sources contribute to the data it collects. Information from your synchronized mobile devices can also become part of the data pool.

External Data Sources: Car companies can gather information from data brokers, car dealers, social media profiles, and even government sources.

20 Ways Your Smart Car Tracks You

  1. Location Tracking:
    • Enables features like navigation and provides data on travel patterns.
  2. Traffic Patterns and Congestion:
    • Improves navigation but can also be used to track individual vehicles.
  3. Driving Behavior:
    • Monitors acceleration, braking, speed, and steering patterns.
  4. In-Vehicle Preferences:
    • Records seat position, climate control, and entertainment choices.
  5. Biometric Data:
    • Collects fingerprints and facial scans for security purposes.
  6. Data from Synced Devices:
    • Accesses and collects data from synchronized mobile devices.
  7. External Cameras and Sensors:
    • Monitors surroundings for features like parking assistance.
  8. Environmental Data:
    • Collects data on air quality, temperature, and road conditions.
  9. Voice Recognition:
    • Tracks driver and passenger voice commands for controlling car features.
  10. Trip Log Information:
    • Records journey start and end times, along with route details.
  11. Airbag System Data:
    • Collects information related to airbag system performance.
  12. On-Board Data:
    • Covers engine performance, tire pressure, and fluid levels.
  13. Media Analytics:
    • Tracks what you listen to in the car, including radio stations and media sources.
  14. Battery, Ignition, and Window Data:
    • Collects information on battery status, ignition, and window positions.
  15. Diagnostic Information:
    • Tracks fault codes and system performance data.
  16. Stability Control and Anti-Lock Events:
    • Records instances when safety features are activated.
  17. Security/Theft Alerts:
    • Generates alerts for security and theft incidents.
  18. Wi-Fi Data Usage:
    • Tracks websites visited by the driver and passengers.
  19. Home Energy Usage:
    • Electric vehicles can monitor home energy usage.
  20. Vehicle Maintenance:
    • Collects data on the car’s performance and maintenance needs.

Why Smart Car Tracking is a Privacy Nightmare

While smart cars have revolutionized our driving experience, they come at a cost—an unprecedented invasion of privacy and security. A Mozilla Foundation study labeled cars as the worst product category evaluated for privacy, citing excessive data collection, widespread data sharing, and a lack of user control over information.

The Extent of Data Collection

Smart vehicles continuously gather data, transmitting it to manufacturers and often sharing it with various entities. The range of information collected is staggering, including personal details, location specifics, digital footprints, demographic insights, financial information, biometric data, and behavioral patterns.

Where Does Your Personal Data Go?

Manufacturers, bound by privacy policies, share data with service providers, government agencies, law enforcement, advertising companies, social media platforms, data brokers, and tech giants like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Murky World of Data Brokers

Data brokers operate in a shadowy realm, trading car-generated data without explicit consent. This raises concerns about personal data misuse, targeted advertising, invasive surveillance, and discrimination through detailed profiling.

Hackers Can Get Access to Your Data

Data brokerage introduces security vulnerabilities. Recent incidents, including breaches at Volkswagen, Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz, highlight lapses in protecting users’ privacy.

Your Smart Car Data Can Be Used Against You

Law enforcement increasingly accesses personal car data for investigative purposes, raising concerns about privacy infringements. Manufacturers sharing voice recordings and location history without occupants’ consent further exacerbate the issue.


Q: How Can I Protect My Smart Car Data?
A: Smart car data protection starts with opting out of data selling and behavioral advertising. Use a privacy-focused VPN when connecting to your car’s Wi-Fi hotspot.

Q: Are There Clear Regulations on Smart Car Data Privacy?
A: Currently, there’s a lack of clear regulations on smart car data privacy. Advocacy for stringent regulations is crucial to safeguard user information.

Q: Can I Control What Data My Smart Car Collects?
A: While smart car manufacturers have privacy policies, they often lack clarity. Staying informed and advocating for transparent practices is key to asserting control.

Q: How Do Data Brokers Access Smart Car Data?
A: Data brokers operate in a regulatory gray area, trading car-generated data without explicit consent. Stricter oversight and transparency are needed to curb these practices.

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