Press Release: New study takes hard look at how our cars are watching us


March 25, 2015

Privacy organization says now is the time to act to protect private information collected and shared by in-vehicle computer systems

 VANCOUVER— The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) has released a year-long study on privacy, consumer choice and onboard vehicle technology.

FIPA Connected Car report coverThe Connected Car: Who is in the Driver’s Seat? looks at how vehicles have changed from simple means of transportation to computers on wheels. A new generation of “Connected Cars” is capable of remarkable feats, from navigation to diagnosing vehicle health, monitoring driver behavior and providing customized on-board infotainment services.

“Through telematics and wireless connectivity, cars are collecting and processing enormous amounts of data,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “More and more of this data is personal information, and some of it reveals intensely private details of a person’s life.”

Data culled from vehicles can be used for safety, monitoring, customer relationship management and the new usage-based insurance programs offered in some Canadian provinces. Yet the same technologies that allow for safer, more convenient and more entertaining cars can be used to track and profile customers for marketing and other purposes.

“Some of the data collected and transmitted for data-mining and market research is simply not necessary for services and applications to work,” said the report’s head researcher and privacy lawyer Pippa Lawson.

Head researcher and report author Pippa Lawson
Head researcher and report author Pippa Lawson

“It opens the door to a range of privacy risks that include security breaches, malicious access and state surveillance.”

The report finds that the usage-based insurance programs now offered in Ontario and Quebec generally comply with Canadian privacy law, but automakers providing Connected Car services are failing to meet their legal obligations. Too often, consumers are given limited choice when it comes to the use and disclosure of their personal data collected by Connected Cars.

“The good news is that there’s still time to address these privacy challenges” said Gogolek, “but with Connected Cars set to mass-penetrate North American markets in the coming years, we need to get serious about setting industry standards and putting guidelines in place.”

Brenda McPhail, Usage-Based Insurance and Privacy Expert
Brenda McPhail, Usage-Based Insurance and Privacy Expert
Eric Lawton, Privacy by Design and Tools for Compliance
Eric Lawton, Privacy by Design and Tools for Compliance


Full Report | Summary information (Executive Summary, FAQs, Privacy Analysis Summary Table)

This research was made possible by grant from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program.

Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director,
Office: 604-739-9788
Cell: 604-318-0031


Alternate Contact: Tamara Herman, Program Director


FIPA is a non-partisan, non-profit society that was established in 1991 to promote and defend freedom of information and privacy rights in Canada. Our goal is to empower citizens by increasing their access to information and their control over their own personal information. We serve a wide variety of individuals and organizations through programs of public education, public assistance, research, and law reform.