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July 13, 2024
Texas Doesn’t Want Automakers Sharing Your Driving Data With Insurance Companies

Modern vehicles are equipped with advanced technology capable of collecting extensive data about the car, driver, and environment. This data collection has raised significant privacy concerns as automakers have been found selling this information without proper consent, prompting an investigation by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Paxton’s office announced an investigation into unnamed car manufacturers under the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices—Consumer Protection Act. This act empowers the attorney general to scrutinize companies for engaging in false, misleading, or deceptive practices. The investigation aims to determine whether these automakers collected and sold driver data without proper authorization or notification to the vehicle owners.

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Paxton emphasized the invasive and disturbing nature of unauthorized data collection and stressed the necessity for a thorough investigation and appropriate enforcement measures. This probe is further supported by a new data privacy law set to take effect in Texas on July 1, reinforcing the state’s commitment to protecting consumer privacy.

According to a report by The Record, Paxton’s office issued “civil investigation demand” letters in April to at least four automakers—Kia, General Motors (GM), Subaru, and Mitsubishi. The letters requested detailed information on how these companies disclosed their data collection practices to customers and to whom they sold the data.

The investigation follows a revelation by The New York Times in March that highlighted how GM, Kia, Subaru, and Mitsubishi shared driver data with an insurance portal, leading to increased insurance rates for some GM drivers. Additionally, U.S. lawmakers have accused other major automakers, including Toyota, BMW, Nissan, Mazda, and Mercedes-Benz, of sharing vehicle location data with law enforcement without a warrant or court order, further fueling privacy concerns.

The data collected by modern vehicles is extensive. Cars can record and transmit information about speed, braking patterns, duration of attention to infotainment screens, and much more. The concern over this data being shared without consent has sparked a broader conversation about the role of automobiles in the surveillance state.

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While Texas is only one state, its size and influence, akin to that of California, give its actions significant weight in the automotive industry. The outcome of this investigation could have far-reaching implications, potentially leading to stricter regulations and greater protections for vehicle owners’ privacy across the country.

In conclusion, the investigation led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton underscores the urgent need for transparency and accountability in how automakers handle and share driver data. As technology continues to evolve, so too must the laws and regulations that protect consumer privacy, ensuring that individuals retain control over their personal information in an increasingly connected world.

This case serves as a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over data privacy, setting the stage for potential reforms that could safeguard consumers from unauthorized data exploitation by automakers and other corporations. The automotive industry, consumers, and privacy advocates alike will be closely watching the developments in Texas, hoping for outcomes that reinforce the importance of consent and transparency in data practices.

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