Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, has recently expressed concerns about the privacy risks associated with modern automotive technologies.
His remarks come in the wake of a comprehensive report by researchers Jen Caltrider, Misha Rykov, and Zoë MacDonald, highlighting the substantial privacy challenges present in contemporary vehicles.
The recent report, highlighted by Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, reveals serious privacy concerns in modern vehicles, often referred to as “computers on wheels.”
The study evaluated 25 car brands, all of which received a “Privacy Not Included” warning, indicating notable privacy deficiencies.
The study claims :
“All but two of the 25 car brands we reviewed earned our “ding” for data control, meaning only two car brands, Renault and Dacia (which are owned by the same parent company) say that all drivers have the right to have their personal data deleted.”
Modern computerized vehicles are gathering extensive user data , from personal traits and location to driving habits, which goes beyond vehicle operation and is crucial for business activities like marketing.
The study also found that 56% of these brands share data with government authorities upon request, and 86% reportedly sell or share this information. Alarmingly, 92% of drivers in modern vehicles have no control over the data collected.
The report stated :
“It’s bad enough for the behemoth corporations that own the car brands to have all that personal information in their possession, to use for their own research, marketing, or the ultra-vague “business purposes.” But then, most (84%) of the car brands we researched say they can share your personal data — with service providers, data brokers, and other businesses we know little or nothing about. Worse, nineteen (76%) say they can sell your personal data.”
Vitalik Buterin’s recent comments on the privacy implications of modern cars have ignited a debate on social media regarding the trade-off between technological progress and privacy.
Discussions range from enthusiasts considering retrofitting classic cars to bypass contemporary privacy issues, to accusations of Buterin being anti-technology. In response, Buterin has clarified his position, affirming his support for various modern technologies, including certain AI applications.
He emphasizes, however, his critical perspective on specific technologies that jeopardize privacy, underlining, “There’s a small-but-important subset of things I worry about!”
The research has unveiled a troubling landscape in automotive data privacy. Each brand examined has been collecting more personal data than necessary, utilizing it for purposes beyond vehicle operation and customer relationship management. This issue isn’t isolated to the automotive sector; it’s reminiscent of the privacy challenges in mental health apps, yet the potential for data collection in cars is even more expansive. Vehicles can amass personal information through various channels, ranging from in-car interactions and connected services to external data sources like Sirius XM or Google Maps.
Disturbingly, majority of these brands admit to sharing or selling this data. The depth and complexity of this data collection, including sensitive personal details, raise profound privacy concerns.
This trend suggests that car companies will exploit data privacy to the extent permissible by law. The modern automotive industry, therefore, not only represents a significant privacy risk but also highlights the urgent need for robust privacy regulations to protect consumers in an increasingly data-driven world.