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Your Personal Data is at Risk When Using Your Rental Car’s Infotainment System

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While it can be risky to tap into your own vehicle’s infotainment system, it turns out that your personal data is also at risk when you access a rental car’s infotainment system.

Privacy International just released a report, confirming this new cybersecurity concern. “Your name and navigation history is valuable personal information. Combine this information with a bit of open source intelligence, such as social media profiles, and you can track down individuals.”

Exactly what kind of personal data can rental car apps store? According to Rebekah Sanders with USA Today, it’s any of the items on the following list:

•Device name
•Music-streaming login (like Pandora or Spotify)
•In-car internet search history
•Call log and text messages (if you use hands-free calling)
•WiFi identifiers
•Address book
•GPS history


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The following rental car companies are of particular concern, per Privacy International’s research: Hertz, Enterprise, Europcar, and Zipcar.

It’d be ideal for car rental companies and car manufacturers to explicitly warn consumers to delete their personal data from their rental car’s infotainment center before turning in the vehicle. however, right now, it’s primarily the consumer’s responsibility to protect themselves.

As Michelle Donati-Grayman, with AAA Arizona, articulated: “AAA advises consumers to disconnect their synced phones upon returning their rental cars and to become familiar with rental car companies’ privacy policies.”

Several rental companies (including Thrifty, Sixt, and Enterprise) are starting to create new data-protection policies, to help protect customers from privacy breaches. Because at the end of the day, it should be the responsibility of the rental company staff to make sure that customer data is deleted from the infotainment system, when each vehicle is returned. Brady Willis, technology-security expert from Chandler, Arizona, expressed his concurrence with this strategy. “Just as they [car rental company employees] refuel tanks, just as they vacuum the car, they should factory reset the infotainment system. It’s just one more step in the process to return the vehicle to the fleet the next day.”

Until rental companies step up their data-protection efforts, be cautious whenever you opt for a rental car on your next business trip or vacation. Deleting your personal information from the infotainment system might seem like a hassle, but this extra step is worth the peace of mind that it will give you.


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News Source: USA Today