With rapidly advancing technology, vehicles are no longer just modes of transportation; they have evolved into sophisticated data hubs on wheels.
Connected smart cars, equipped with an array of sensors and communication systems, have the potential to revolutionize our driving experience. However, as these vehicles gather and transmit vast amounts of data, it raises important questions about individual privacy, security and the need for regulatory oversight.
To shed some light on the multifaceted dimensions of this intricate discourse, the Raymond A. Mason School of Business marketing department conversed with Rajiv Kohli, the John N. Dalton Professor of Business. His foray into this research domain was ignited when he purchased his first smart car, which gave him a firsthand understanding of its implications.
“Connected smart cars are data goldmines, collecting a wide range of information, including location, driving habits, vehicle diagnostics and even personal preferences,” said Kohli.
As a well-known authority in information systems, Kohli ranks among the leading researchers worldwide and provides a wealth of insight into data collection and privacy concerns. The findings of his research study, “Privacy Concerns and Data Sharing in the Internet of Things: Mixed Methods Evidence from Connected Cars” were published in MIS Quarterly, an influential academic journal.
What is the impact on privacy?
Smart vehicles gather extensive information encompassing detailed location data, driving behaviors, vehicle health diagnostics, and personal preferences. Kohli notes that this data can reveal intimate details, posing significant privacy risks. Unauthorized access to this data could lead to dangers like stalking, identity theft, or even manipulation of a person’s habits because the data reveals so much about the individual’s life beyond their smart car.
Are there data security measures in place?
Car manufacturers and service providers must implement robust security measures to address these concerns. Encryption, access controls, and regular security audits are essential to safeguard personal information.
“Users need assurance that their data are protected from cybercriminals and misuse,” says Kohli.
Kohli emphasizes the importance of industry-wide security standards and collaboration to ensure a consistent level of protection but expressed concerns that there are too many breaches and misuses of data to provide assurances and build trust with individual users.
Are there regulations to protect driver data?
As the smart car ecosystem expands, regulatory bodies worldwide grapple with balancing innovation and privacy protection. Kohli highlights that existing regulations, such as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), provide a foundation for addressing these issues. However, more specific regulations tailored to smart cars are needed to ensure comprehensive data privacy.
“The regulatory landscape has struggled to keep pace with the rapid advancements in technology, making it challenging to offer pertinent, meaningful, and effective oversight for this evolving field.”
Can our data be anonymized and aggregated privately for research purposes?
Connected smart cars can employ data anonymization and aggregation techniques to mitigate privacy concerns. Individual identities are protected by removing personally identifiable information and combining data into larger sets. Yet, Kohli underscores that these methods are not foolproof, and continuous scrutiny is required to prevent re-identification. He admits that it does not require much to triangulate between data points to pinpoint and identify the individual user.
Do drivers have a say in how their data are used?
Transparency is key. Car manufacturers and service providers must communicate in simple ways the data they collect and how it is used or intended to be used. Users should be able to make informed data-sharing decisions and have easy opt-out options. Kohli suggests the development of user-friendly dashboards that empower individuals to manage their data preferences.
What does the future of privacy look like in connected cars?
Smart cars will become more integrated into our daily lives when we connect other devices, such as home automation systems, with connected vehicles. This integration raises new privacy concerns, including the potential for invasive advertising, data monetization, and the risk of data being used against individuals.
To address these concerns proactively, Kohli advises “ongoing dialogue between stakeholders, including consumers, industry leaders, and policymakers.” It also prompts further questions about functionality. When users opt out of their data being collected, the product’s functionality is often limited or not optimized to its full capacity. How is this penalty fair when it forces the user to compromise their privacy concerns for the full use of a smart device? Is that even a choice?