OnStar will track my car data even if I cancel service


I received a free six-month trial subscription to OnStar when I recently bought a new vehicle.

Besides the cool monthly diagnostics report that arrives in my inbox alerting me to such things as my remaining oil life and tire pressure, I don't need what OnStar offers. I won't be paying for a subscription once my free trial ends.

But just because I'm done with OnStar doesn't necessarily mean it's done with me.

The company emailed subscribers this week to tell us about "key changes" to its agreement with us. Among those changes: Even after we quit, OnStar "may continue to collect data" from us unless we "take certain steps" by contacting the company.

If we raise a stink, OnStar -- a General Motors subsidiary -- says it might take two months to "deactivate the data connection."

Now, much of what OnStar collects is innocuous and sometimes useful information -- like the aforementioned oil life data.

I'll even grant that some of the other data it collects -- like my speed, location and seat belt usage -- might possibly be used for good. Example: Highway planners could use speed data to build better roads.

But not when I'm no longer a customer. And not in the hands of a third party that wants to sell me something or penalize me for my behavior.

OnStar's customer agreement also gives the company the right to share or sell data at any time, for any reason, "with law enforcement or other public safety officials, credit card processors and/or third parties we contract with" after removing identifying information like the subscriber's name from the data.

The tech website Wired.com wrote about the policy this week. A reporter there interviewed Jonathan Zdziarski, an Ohio forensics scientist, who also blogged about the new terms:

"It would be extremely profitable to be able to identify all vehicles within OnStar’s network that frequently speed, and provide law enforcement 'traffic services' the ability to trace them back to their homes or businesses, as well as tell them where to set up speed traps. Or perhaps insurance companies who want to check and make sure you’re wearing your seat belt, or automatically give you rate increases if you speed, even if you’re never in an accident?"

This is my private information. I shouldn't have to share it with whoever wants it as a cost of doing business with a company that purports to look out for me.

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