On August 28, 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) publicly released a report regarding consumer privacy issues associated with the rapidly increasing number of cars that are “connected”—i.e., capable of wirelessly monitoring, collecting, and transmitting information about their internal and external environments. The report examines four key issues: (1) the types of data collected by connected cars and transmitted to selected automakers, and how such automakers use and share such data; (2) the extent to which selected automakers’ privacy policies are in line with established privacy best practices; (3) selected experts’ views on privacy issues related to connected cars; and (4) federal roles and efforts related to consumer privacy and connected cars.
The GAO turned to a variety of resources to explore the four identified issues. For starters, the GAO conducted a series of interviews with relevant industry associations, organizations that work with consumer privacy issues, and a sample of sixteen automakers (thirteen of which offered connected vehicles) based on their vehicle sales in the U.S. In addition, the GAO analyzed selected automakers’ privacy policies and compared them to privacy frameworks developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) as well as the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”). Finally, the GAO consulted relevant sources (e.g., federal statutes, regulations, and reports) and interviewed agency officials, including those from the Department of Transportation (“DOT”), the FTC, and the Department of Commerce.
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