Judge Rules it’s Fine for Car Makers to Intercept Your Text Messages

A federal judge has rejected a class action lawsuit against Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and General Motors, alleging violations of Washington state’s privacy laws. The lawsuit claimed the car manufacturers used on-board infotainment systems to record customers’ text messages and mobile phone call logs.

The judge ruled that this practice does not constitute an illegal privacy violation under state law, dismissing the plaintiffs' appeal against a prior judge's decision. Car manufacturers' infotainment systems were reported to download and store text messages on connected smartphones, restricting owners' access while providing law enforcement access.

The appellate judge in Seattle determined that the interception and recording of mobile phone activity did not meet the standard set by the Washington Privacy Act (WPA), requiring proof of a threat to "business, person, or reputation."

In a related podcast, Mozilla researchers revealed car companies' data collection capabilities, including sensitive information like social security numbers, religion, marital status, genetic details, disability status, immigration status, and race. The data could be sold to marketers, raising concerns about privacy violations in the automotive industry.

Popular global car brands, such as BMW, Ford, Toyota, Tesla, Kia, and Subaru, were identified as collecting deeply personal data through various means, including sensors, microphones, cameras, and connected devices. Researchers criticized the entire car industry, stating that "cars are the worst product category we have ever reviewed for privacy."

Considering the significant privacy risks associated with car data collection, the podcast suggests a cautious approach, including turning off phones before starting the car for both safety and privacy reasons.

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