Daimler and BMW Make Joint Promises About Consumer Data Safety

How much data are consumers going to be expected to give up in the era of the connected car? As much as possible, since making the most of that information will be a financial score for whoever can control it, dice it, repackage it and sell it. Consumers, however, are not so keen about giving up their private information or leaving behind in a shared vehicle – at lease when they know they’re doing it.

Some recent studies found that in rental cars, for example, unless previous renters made a concerted effort to delete their information, the next renters were able to retrieve a surprising amount from the digital breadcrumbs left by a paired smartphone. It becomes more of a problem with the more apps we use to run more parts of our lives.

“It’s a considerable problem, actually,” said University of Ontario Institute of Technology assistant professor Rajen Akalu. “Most people don’t realize the amount of information that they leave behind when they pair their phone, for example, on any rental car.”

It’s been estimated by trade groups that the average drivers’ data could soon be worth more than his or her vehicle, thanks to apps, sensors and cameras that track performance, surroundings and interactions. It’s not farfetched to say that automakers soon be able to make more money selling vehicle data than the actual vehicles themselves. This makes a lot of drivers nervous.

Privacy as a Competitive Advantage

Automakers Daimler and BMW say they believe that trustworthy handling of personal data will be a key competitive advantage in a new joint venture they’ve announced that offers app-based services like free-floating car-sharing in big cities. Last week, the two companies said during a news conference in Berlin that they are investing more than a billion euros (over $1.1 billion) in their combined digital and mobile services.

Joining their efforts means they can more quickly achieve rapid growth and win dominant positions in car-sharing, ride-hailing and ticketless parking, they said. Together, they have more than 20,000 vehicles offered through car-sharing programs in 30 cities worldwide.

Daimler AG’s chief executive, Dieter Zetsche, said the companies plan to offer users assurances that their data would be kept secure.

“While our customers trust in the safety our cars provide for their lives, they trust as well in the safety of their data in our hands. That is an inherent advantage we can offer,” Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche told reporters from Automotive News Europe.

Zetsche noted that he did not want to criticize technology companies, but said that if people could trust the two car companies to make safe cars then that established a foundation to trust “the safety of their data in our hands.”