The connected car, or the "Internet car", is the next big revolution expected in the automobile industry, and is aimed to expand the horizon of the Internet of Things (IoT). From performance monitors and digital entertainment, to navigation systems, the cars of today are coming equipped with everything possible to keep you connected with the world, while on the road. It is in support of this revolution that Alibaba and SAIC Motor recently announced their 1 billion yuan ($162 million) investment and partnership to develop internet connected vehicles.
They aim to manufacture vehicles that will use both cloud computing and big data technology. Alibaba will integrate its entertainment, communications, map and cloud services with the vehicles to provide customers with a better driving experience. But, privacy remains the key question that arises with the interest in the Internet-enabled vehicles.
According to analysts, the growing interest portrayed by tech companies in investing in connected vehicles is mostly to promote their own business lines. And, they feel that this will be done by customers being subjected to increased monitoring and analysis by these corporations for their own benefit.
For instance, vehicle performance monitors will transmit information about driver behavior and the condition of the vehicle wirelessly. This type of data can be extremely useful to car dealers. Even navigation systems that contain GPS systems and can record the routes taken and the position can be an undue infringement of the customer’s privacy. But, tech companies in partnership with car manufacturers could use this to their advantage strategically-placed advertising, showcasing products, services and information that’s relevant to the driver.
Yet another way in which data can be unnecessarily mined is through entertainment systems that have the potential to collect all sorts of personal information, from who the driver texts or calls often and what websites he or she browses, to contact information, schedule details and personal preferences.
On the one hand, while data collection is advertised as being extremely beneficial to car owners, it could be used by a large number of people, from law enforcement agencies and governmental organizations to insurance agencies. It could also infringe on many data protection laws made to safeguard the privacy of the customer.
So, the question that really arises is who is driving your car? While the car owner may believe that the car is his purchase and feel advantaged with the abundant services offered thanks to the vehicle’s connectivity, at the same time, his private data, quite possibly is in danger of being compromised.
Policy and law makers must take notice of this tech revolution to ensure that customers enjoy the benefits of a rapidly advancing wireless technology, and at the same time have their data kept safe and not misused for any marketing or business purposes.
What do you think of the advent of the "Internet cars" and what it means for our personal information? Please share your comments in the section below.