PhotoThe way things have worked the last 20 years or so is that geeks and entrepreneurs dream up ideas and implement them, leaving others to follow along behind and clean up the problems and disruptions, the blithe disregard for the privacy implications of social media and behavioral tracking being perhaps the two most obvious examples.

We're now on the verge of a similar explosion of potentially invasive technology in the home -- with "smart" thermostats, smoke detectors and so forth -- and in the cars we use to get around the physical world each day.

AAA thinks now is the time to think through the consequences and agree on some guidelines. Noting that about one in five new cars sold this year will collect and transmit data outside the vehicle, AAA is urging companies to protect drivers by adopting its new “Consumer Rights for Car Data.” AAA formally addressed this issue as part of public comments to the Federal Trade Commission last week.

“Many connected car features are made possible through the collection of large amounts of potentially sensitive data from drivers,” said Bob Darbelnet, President and CEO of AAA. “Companies collecting, using and sharing data from cars should do everything possible to protect consumer rights as they offer these technologies.”

AAA’s suggestions

1. Transparency – Consumers have a right to clearly understand what information is being collected from their vehicle and how it is being used. Businesses and the government should be transparent about the collection and use of vehicle data.

2. Choice – Consumers have a right to decide with whom to share their data and for what purpose. This includes ongoing monitoring of vehicle systems, repair and any data of the vehicle owner’s choice. Customers should not be forced to relinquish control as a condition of purchasing or leasing a vehicle or of receiving a connected-vehicle service.

3. Security – Consumers have a right to expect that connected-vehicle manufacturers and service providers will use reasonable measures to protect vehicle data systems and services against unauthorized access and misuse.

“Connected cars can dramatically improve the driving experience, but companies must be responsible in their use of consumer information,” continued Darbelnet. “The data that today can be routinely collected by cars includes some of the most sensitive data that can be collected about a person, including information about their precise location and driving habits.”

AAA last week provided specific recommendations to the FTC in response to the commission’s request for public comments, which followed up on the agency’s “Internet of Things” workshop. The workshop examined the consumer privacy and security issues posed by the growing connectivity of consumer devices, such as cars, appliances and medical devices.

“New car technologies are changing the way we drive by making the experience both easier and safer than ever before,” said Darbelnet. “Within a decade the majority of cars on the road will be able to identify problems before breakdowns occur, reduce crashes and help drivers save time and money.”

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