If you are renting a car this holiday and you’re planning to pair your phone to connect to the infotainment system you could be compromising your privacy.
When you pair your phone, the contents of your smartphone, including your location as well as your home address, is sent to the car according to a report by Privacy International.
Who’s responsibility is it to clear the stored data from the connected infotainment system?
Millie Graham Wood, solicitor and legal officer at Privacy International told ZDNet that in most rental cars, “there were between five and 10 different phone identifiers. When you connect to the Bluetooth, it will store your identifier.”
She then added that “we also looked at the navigation systems: a lot of locations were stored. Places people had driven to, you could possibly link up with their name and drive there.”
For the report compiled by Privacy International, cars were rented from multiple car hire companies in the US, and the models tested included the Audi A3 and the Nissan Qashqai.
As it turns out, the rental companies expect users to delete the data themselves once they have finished with the vehicles.
“The unanimous responses were, not only is it the individual’s responsibility to delete their data when they return the rental car, the individual is further responsible for informing other passengers who connect their devices to the car that their data is being stored on the car, and not necessarily deleted,” stated the report.
Car manufacturers don’t have control, once the vehicles become part of a rental fleet. Nissan was approached for comments and said that it was up to the rental company or the customer to clear the data, and that the automaker itself doesn’t have access to the car’s internal systems unless it’s fully connected to the internet.
“As this is a rental company fleet vehicle, Nissan does not have access to or control of a vehicle to carry out such a reset after each rental customer and would expect the customer or the rental company to carry out any necessary resets,” said the Japanese automaker.
So the prudent advice to you if you’re planning to rent a car is to pay attention to the type of information you share with the infotainment system, whether it’s cell phone data or sat-nav destinations and to make sure that you delete the data before returning the vehicle .