Technology has made it easy to play music and use GPS by connecting your phone to your car via Bluetooth. But that simple connection now allows police to access the entire content of your phone.
The reason is that when your phone connects with an automobile, data from your phone automatically gets transferred and stored in the car’s files. Citizens of the State of Washington claimed the information was private, but a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit determined that it is not a violation of privacy for cars to automatically store text and call data from cell phones.
The ruling came in response to a class-action lawsuit against major car manufacturers, alleging that drivers’ rights were violated under the Washington State Privacy Act.
What’s more, the court acknowledged that even if text messages or call logs are deleted from a cellphone, it is legal for a vehicle to retain the information on its onboard memory, even if the data cannot be accessed or deleted by the owners.
The Ford Motor Company argued that by connecting their phones to the cars, drivers had given implied consent for data storage. Ford also stated they provide a factory reset option that they could use to erase stored data.
The plaintiffs’ privacy concerns were primarily related to a third-party data retrieval company called Berla, which retrieves phone data from connected vehicles at the request of law enforcement agencies.
The court stated it ruled in favor of the car manufacturers because the plaintiffs failed to prove any actual injury resulting from the alleged breach of privacy.
Despite the ruling, consumer advocates remain concerned about privacy risks associated with vehicle technology. A report by Mozilla News found that car manufacturers collect more personal data than necessary and use it for purposes beyond operating the vehicle.
Privacy advocates are alarmed by the potential collection of intimate information, including medical and genetic data, driving habits, and personal interests and activities.
This story originally appeared at LibertyOne News.
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