Feeds

OnStar backs down over GPS tracking of ex-customers

Slams brakes after consumer revolt

3 Big data security analytics techniques

OnStar has backed down from a proposed change in its terms and conditions that would have seen the vehicle info system collecting car monitoring data on former customers.

The OnStar system, operated as part of General Motors, embeds a mobile phone and GPS in customer’s cars and relays a constant stream of data back to the company recording basic speed and location, whether the driver is wearing a seat belt, and tire pressure, as well as reporting accidents. This latter function is the system’s principal selling point, and numerous lives have been saved by the car alerting emergency services that a crash has occurred.

But last week OnStar decided to change its terms and conditions, so that if a customer cancelled the service it would still collect the data. To make matters worse it retained the right to sell it to any third party - unless it received a specific opt-out request. Such information would be a valuable commodity for advertisers, but under the new terms OnStar could conceivably have sold the data to law enforcement looking to issue tickets or insurance investigators examining crash claims.

The move provoked something of a storm among the public, and prompted Democratic senators Al Franken of Minnesota, Chris Coons of Delaware, and Charles Schumer of New York to contact the company about its policy, the latter calling it “one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory” and suggesting a Federal Trade Commission investigation. Now, barely a week later, OnStar has abandoned the proposed changes.

“We realize that our proposed amendments did not satisfy our subscribers,” OnStar president Linda Marshall said in a statement. “This is why we are leaving the decision in our customers’ hands. We listened, we responded and we hope to maintain the trust of our customers.”

While the company has backed down on its initial proposal, the move has also sparked an investigation by some customers into what OnStar can do with their private data under the current terms and conditions.

“I’m glad to see OnStar responding to its customers, however simply amending their terms and conditions to stop monitoring a vehicle after the user cancels is not enough to satisfy the level of privacy OnStar customers received prior to these updates,” writes forensic scientist, customer, and part-time hacker Jonathan Zdziarski.

“To win back the respect of the many customers who must have canceled over the new terms, OnStar will need to make a full 180 and agree not to collect customer GPS information “for any purpose, at any time”, but only when the customer would expect it to be collected, as the old contract enforced.” ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.