When it comes to privacy and mobility, ‘don’t be creepy’ isn’t enough

Smarter cars mean higher prices. How will OEMs will keep vehicles affordable as customers demand more utility from their cars long after they drive off the lot? Consumer electronics get better with post-launch software updates, after all. Why shouldn’t a crossover that costs orders of magnitude more than an iPhone?

In that sense, one business model proposed during a panel about connected vehicles on the Automobili-D stage at NAIAS might sound familiar. The reams of data generated by a connected car’s myriad sensors are extremely valuable to advertisers. In-cabin sensors that asses user sentiment were discussed. Moderator Sam Abuelsamid, senior mobility research analyst for Navigant asked the panel how the auto industry could avoid the data privacy scandals plaguing the tech world.

“I don’t know many people would be really happy about the idea of sensors in the car detecting what kind of mood they’re in and sharing that to sell them different products,” he said.

“Mobility users are willing to trade their data if they’re getting value for it,” Bosch director of connected mobility solutions Kevin Mull replied. Bosch has cameras that can spot left-behind valuables, for example. “Obviously we’ve gotta be really smart with the security of that data, but the end-user’s gonna be flexible. There’s precedent for it, “ he said, referencing smartphones.

Colin Dhillion, chief technology officers of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association said automotive cybersecurity is lagging behind that of the banking and financial industries, and government.

So far the best precedent for privacy and user-data protection is Apple, according to Gavin Sherry, CEO of Ford-owned Autonomic. Sherry stressed that this sentiment came from being a user, and he’s impressed by the tech juggernaut’s “rigorous” consent framework.

“The automotive industry should adopt exactly the same standard,” he said. “It’s insufficient in the Facebook parlance to just stop at ‘Don’t be creepy.’

“Turns out, that’s a subjective concept.”

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