Recent news has cast a light on government wiretaps and the importance of personal privacy. But it's not just Washington that knows all about you.
Your car knows about you; and so does your carmaker.
Thanks to advances in technology, today's cars operate a lot like today's smartphones. The benefit is that connected-vehicle technology can improve the driving experience -- from GPS navigation tools to Internet-connectivity -- right on the dashboard.
It also enables a car to transmit vital statistics on vehicle performance to ensure proper operation and avoid repair surprises -- or could even help drivers avoid collisions. The possibilities are limitless.
And so are the dangers.
That's why it's so important that you control the information from your car.
Your car data covers everything from exact location information, to vehicle speed, braking and acceleration information, radio usage, phone conversations and even how many people are in the car.
Consumers have no choice about what data their car is transmitting about them or how that data may be used -- automakers exclusively control that data and can decide what and with whom they share.
While consumers have rights to control their data on their computers, mobile phones and every other personal electronic device, there are no such rights for the consumer with their vehicle.
Not long ago, a government report found that none of the major automakers or the data companies give the customers the option of deleting their location-based data.
How invasive is this data collection? It covers your location, your auto repairs and maintenance, your driving habits and your electronic data recorders.
In other words, the data covers everything about your car and your driving.
So the question is: shouldn't you control the data in your car?
We believe you should. And that's why at AAA, we are supporting state Senate Bill994 to give car owners the keys when it comes to the vehicle information.
The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Bill Monning who puts it this way: "It is your car, it is your data, and it should be your choice."
Californians need a solution that gives them choice. SB994 will do just that by creating several important protections for car owners throughout California.
First, it will create transparency. Many car owners have no idea that so much data is being collected about their car and their driving habits. This legislation will ensure that consumers understand what data is being collected and how it's being used.
Second, it will promote choice. There is a basic issue of fairness here. People should be able to make decisions about their own data. This legislation will ensure that consumers have the rights to control who can access data from their cars and to securely share their vehicle's data with service providers of their choice.
Finally, it will ensure security. The legislation will require auto manufacturers and service providers to use reasonable measures to protect consumers' vehicle data systems and services against unauthorized access and misuse.
"We think we're on the frontier of trying to get ahead of the technology revolution on this," Monning said when introducing his bill, adding that his legislation will lead to the "the greater potential of sharing information."
That's not too much to ask for. At a time of heightened concerns over privacy, shouldn't we be looking for ways to empower individuals? And shouldn't that include car owners having access to information about their own cars?
SB994 does just that. It puts the car owner back in the driver's seat. That's why the Legislature needs to pass it into law. It's the right thing for our drivers and the right thing for our state.
Robert Brown is public affairs director of AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah.