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GM Ends OnStar Data Sharing Following Public Protest

Consumer outcry has led General Motors to cease sharing connected car data with brokers.

“As of March 20th, OnStar Smart Driver customer data is no longer being shared with LexisNexis or Verisk,” GM told Ars Technica Friday (March 22). “Customer trust is a priority for us, and we are actively evaluating our privacy processes and policies.”

The decision follows a recent New York Times report that found that members of GM’s OnStar Smart Driver app had their data shared with LexisNexis and Verisk.

“While access to this data has undoubtedly improved the overall driving experience, from enhanced safety and improved traffic management to increased payments efficiency and tailored entertainment options, the practice of automakers sharing driving data with third parties, notably insurance companies, has ignited a contentious debate,” PYMNTS wrote following the Times report this month.

While the data brokers contend that personalized insurance premiums based on driving behavior could incentivize safer practices and lead to lower rates, skeptics worry about the potential misuse and exploitation of this data. 

Among them is driver Kenn Dahl, who was shocked to get a report from LexisNexis, detailing every aspect of his driving habits over several months, including every time he engaged in hard braking or sharp accelerations.

“Beyond individual privacy concerns, there are broader societal implications at play,” PYMNTS wrote. “The data collected by insurance companies could be used not only to assess risk but also to make sweeping judgments about individuals’ lifestyles and behaviors, disproportionately affecting certain demographics.”

The news comes as data brokers’ habits are getting the attention of the federal government, For example, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., last month urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate auto manufacturers’ “invasive” privacy practices.

“With new advances in vehicle technology and services, automakers have been vacuuming up huge amounts of data on drivers, passengers, and even individuals outside the vehicle,” Markey wrote in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan.

Also last month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said it would propose rules this year to curb the activities of data brokers, including those that sell personal data to customers overseas, following an executive order from the White House.

“Corporate data brokers are assembling and selling extremely sensitive data on all of us, including U.S. military personnel, to foreign purchasers,” said CFPB Direct Rohit Chopra.

“The executive order calls on the CFPB to utilize its legal authorities to provide greater protections,” Chopra added. “This year, we will be proposing new rules to rein in these abuses that will safeguard families and our national security.”