Leaving info behind, in (rental) cars

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Gary Numan sang, “Here in my car, I can only receive.” Well, those days are in the past. More and more vehicles are outfitted with the latest communications technologies like Bluetooth, GPS navigation, roadside assistance, streaming music, and web browsing. With mobile technologies in rental cars, consumers’ personal information can stay with the car long after the consumer has returned it. If you’re a car rental company, it’s important to think about protecting consumer privacy in connected rental cars. 

What’s the issue? Connecting a mobile device to a vehicle’s infotainment system can lead to storing sensitive personal data on the infotainment system. For example, infotainment systems may store navigation histories that identify locations entered or visited. For features like hands-free calling and texting, they also may store data from a mobile device – like a phone number, the device’s owner, call and message logs, even contacts or text messages stored on the device.

Call and message logs, contacts, and text messages can provide a wealth of data about a mobile phone’s user. Navigation histories can reveal where a consumer lives or works.

Connected technologies are fun, so where’s the problem? For starters, consumers may not know their data is being collected and stored. Unless consumer data stored on the infotainment system is deleted before the car is returned to the rental agency, that information will be accessible by third parties including future renters, rental car employees, or even hackers.

When it comes to connected rental cars, here are some tips for car rental businesses that care about consumer privacy:

  • Disable any automatic settings that synchronize or save data from a paired device.
  • Establish policies and procedures to delete consumer data from the infotainment system when each car is returned. Train employees to follow these procedures, and monitor employees to be sure the procedures are followed. Make deleting data another step, like cleaning the interior, to prepare the car for the next rental.
  • Prominently warn consumers about the types of data that may be downloaded from devices and stored on the car’s infotainment system. Then, provide clear instructions on how they can delete the information.

For more compliance resources, visit the Business Center’s Privacy and Security portal.



Our enormous and fast-paced advancements in technology are outstripping the average consumers' ability to understand the full implications of using them. This is a very needed post on a critical topic that protects consumer privacy. Thank you.

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