How to Keep Your Car From Spying on You - Kanebridge News
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How to Keep Your Car From Spying on You

New features on cars and phone apps can track where you go, when and how fast—among many other things. Here’s what to do about it.

Fri, Jun 7, 2024 8:00amGrey Clock 3 min

Your car is watching you. What can you do to stop it?

Many vehicles today and their related phone apps are packed with safety and convenience features, including digital maps, navigation linked to GPS and the internet, remote starting and vehicle locaters to find your car in a crowded parking lot. Many also have microphones for voice control and some have cameras that detect who is driving to adjust things such as the seat.

But those features and others can have a dark side: Many can track where you go and when, how fast you drive and how hard you brake, where you park and spend time, even what music or podcasts you listen to. Such information can be a gold mine for marketers and insurers—and a target for hackers.

Privacy researchers say car buyers may not realise they agree to have such data collected by the automaker when they sign the papers for a new vehicle or use the carmaker’s phone app.

The Mozilla Foundation, a technology-focused nonprofit, examined the privacy practices of 25 car brands. Its conclusion: “These are the worst of any [product] category we’ve reviewed,” says Jen Caltrider, director of the group’s Privacy Not Included program. Among its findings are that most carmakers collect personal information, give customers little control over it, and may sell or share it with others.

Privacy experts say they also are concerned about provisions in car-maker privacy policies that allow them to share driver information with law-enforcement authorities under certain circumstances—sometimes without a warrant.

On May 14, the Federal Trade Commission told vehicle makers that it was  monitoring their actions  regarding car data. “Cars are much like mobile phones when it comes to revealing consumers’ persistent, precise location,” the agency said in a blog post. It added that companies “do not have the free license to monetise people’s information beyond purposes needed to provide their requested product or service….”

The industry response

The car industry says that the combination of vehicle data monitoring, GPS and wireless communication—a field known as telematics—provides important features, some of them safety-related. Some systems can detect when you’ve been in an accident and call emergency services, or locate a car if it’s stolen. They can help you avoid a traffic jam or potential road hazards. Cars also can give you maintenance reminders, such as when a vehicle needs an oil change or new tires, and allow the carmaker to track the durability and function of certain components for future improvements.

A vehicle-industry trade group in 2014 issued  voluntary guidelines  for the collection and use of car data. The group, now called the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, says its members should give car owners and lessees choice in the “collection, use and sharing” of certain information and that this information should be collected “only as needed for legitimate business purposes.”

Some privacy groups, however, say the voluntary guidelines aren’t specific enough and aren’t always followed.

“It seems like an empty promise,” says Thorin Klosowski, a security and privacy expert with the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Car companies are becoming tech companies. Self-policing hasn’t been shown in other tech industries to be a reliable way for companies to operate.”

What is needed, according to these experts, is a federal privacy-protection law along the lines of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. The car industry, for its part, also  backs a federal privacy law , in part to have a nationwide standard as a number of states have adopted their own, differing laws.

Most carmakers issue their own lengthy privacy policies stating how they collect and disseminate car data. Some state that they can share or sell the information to third parties including marketers if the car owner agrees to it.

Among the six biggest sellers of vehicles in the U.S., Ford Motor says customers can turn off data and location sharing with the company. It says it “doesn’t sell any connected-vehicle data to brokers, period.”  General Motors says it is “fostering trust through responsible data practices, enhanced user controls and clear benefits for customers.” Toyota says it gives customers “transparency and choice” in how vehicle data is collected and used and that they can “turn off all data transmission.”

Stellantis, owner of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep, says any data it collects “is in accordance with applicable state privacy laws  Accordingly, Stellantis provides customers with a way to opt out of data collection.” Honda says it is “very clear about what we collect and how our owners can opt out” and “when we might share collected data with third parties.” Hyundai declined to comment and deferred to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation for a response.


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Savvy travellers who plan their trips around dining at their destination’s most in-demand restaurants know that securing a reservation at a top Paris eatery isn’t an easy proposition on any given day.

Come the Olympics in July, when the city is flooded with tourists, one would expect the jockey sport to snag a table to be that much more intense. But that’s not necessarily shaping up to be the case. As of mid-May, Parisian insiders such as hotel managers, restaurant owners, and local luxury concierges reported that inquiries at sought-after spots were no higher than usual, foretelling a potential opportunity for visitors looking for a fine-dining experience during the games.

The time to book falls over the next few weeks given that many top spots don’t take reservations until one month before the dining date.

The Michelin-starred Jean Imbert Au Plaza Athenee and Le Relais Plaza, both at Hotel Plaza Athenee and helmed by the renowned French chef Jean Imbert, are two examples.

Francois Delahaye, the COO of the Dorchester Collection, a hospitality company that includes the Plaza Athenee and a second Paris property, Le Meurice, says that his regular guests who are visiting for the games and Parisians who frequent the restaurants know not to call too far in advance of when they want to dine.

Further, he doesn’t foresee reservations being a challenge at either venue or at Le Meurice’s two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse.

“Booking for the restaurants won’t be an issue because people are planning meals at the last minute,” Delahaye says. “Also, the people who are in Paris specifically for the Olympics are here for the games, not to eat at restaurants. They’re not the big-spending clientele that we usually get.”

Delahaye doesn’t expect the kinds of peak crowds that descend on fine dining during Fashion Week each spring and autumn, for example, when trying to land a seat at the three eateries is nearly impossible. “People are fighting to get in,” he says. “You need to book through your hotel’s concierge, have an inside source, or be a hotel or restaurant regular.”

Several Paris luxury concierge companies echoed Delahaye’s perspective

Manuel de Croutte, the founder of Exclusive & Private, says that Paris regulars probably aren’t planning a trip when the Olympics transpire—from July 26 to Aug. 11—because they want to avoid the tourist rush. “We’ve gotten some reservation requests from people who’ve heard about us but not nearly as many as we usually get when the very wealthy travellers are here,” he says.

During peak periods like the French Open or Fashion Week, de Croutte says that his job entails making bookings for travellers who don’t have any other way to get into buzzy or Michelin-starred establishments.

“You’re unlikely to get a table at a see-and-be-seen place without knowing someone,” de Croutte says. “No one picks up the phone or answers email.” He says his team has established relationships with managers and owners of many of the hot spots in Paris and often visits them in person to land tables.

Exclusive & Private’s Black Book of Paris restaurant recommendations for Olympic visitors span a broad range, from casual bistros to fine-dining.

Michelin eateries include the three-star Le Gabriel at La Reserve, the two-star Le Clarence near the Champs-Elysee, and the two-star Le Taillevent.

Spots without a Michelin star but equally notable are also on de Croutte’s list: L’ Ami Jean offers traditional and flavourful southwestern French cuisine, Allard is a brasserie from Alain Ducasse, and Laurent serves French food to a fashionable set.

“My favourite neighbourhood for restaurants is Saint Germain de Pres,” de Croutte says. “You’ll find unassuming but chic names with excellent food and a great vibe. You can book with these places directly if you’re here for the Olympics, but don’t wait until the last minute because they will get filled.”

He also cautions that some Paris eateries are asking for nonrefundable prepayments for reservations during the Olympics.

“Be sure you want to go before committing and ask about the refund policy if you are charged,” he says.

Stephanie Boutet-Fajol, the founder of Sacrebleu Paris, says her bespoke travel company charges a lump sum of about US$750 to make all the restaurant bookings for the Olympic period, though the price varies depending on the dates and the number of restaurants that a client requests. “Reservations around the closing ceremony are harder to come by because that’s when more elite travelers are coming to Paris and want the chic restaurants that are always difficult to get a table at,” she says.

Meanwhile, chefs at some Michelin-starred restaurants share that they have tables available during the Olympics and welcome travellers to their establishments.

Thibaut Spiwack, for one, behind the Michelin-starred Anona, serving modern French cuisine, and the culinary consultant for the popular Netflix series Emily in Paris , says that he is open for reservations.

“My team and I look forward to sharing a culinary experience with new clientele that I hope will remain in their memory,” he says.

Spiwack suggests that travellers check out other worthwhile restaurants where he himself dines. For terrific wine, there’s Lava, and for Italian, he likes Epoca where the pastas are “divine.” Janine is the best bistro in town, and Prima wins for a pizza fix, he says.

“You have a lot of restaurants in Paris to pick from,” Spiwack says. “You just need to determine where you want to go, and book as soon as you can.”