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In a report requested by U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., the Government Accountability Office found that automakers were storing private data collected from onboard navigation systems without allowing car owners to ask that it be erased.
The GAO report, released last week, said that nine of 10 companies contacted collect location data and share it with traffic information providers. The companies said they don’t share personally identifiable location data or sell such data to marketing companies or data brokers.
Franken nevertheless called the results of the GAO study “troubling,” and without privacy legislation, the potential for unwanted disclosure remains.
Location tracking in cellphones originally was advanced as a safety feature, so callers to 911 could be located quickly. But location identification now is used in third-party applications, allowing for easy tracking of people’s whereabouts.
During his time in the Senate, Franken has pushed for legislation to safeguard location privacy.
Franken and others fear that it wouldn’t take much to tweak event data recorders and other vehicle technology for equally broad uses.
“These companies aren’t telling their customers what they’re doing with your very personal data,” Franken said.
Franken, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, wrote to Ford CEO Alan Mullaly, raising questions related to the company’s data collection and sharing policies. He is seeking a response by Feb. 1.
Corey Mitchell is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau. Twitter: @C_C_Mitchell