Senator Schumer wants Onstar privacy probe

One of the leading Democrats in the US Senate has some harsh words for the way Onstar handles customer privacy.

Charles Schumer of New York must have recently gotten Onstar for his car or else received a complaint from one of his most treasured constituents because even though the service has been running for several years, he’s just now complaining about the fact that the GM-owned service can collect a whole bunch of user information.

Of course, Onstar knows all sorts of things about you; you know that when you sign on. It can pinpoint your location, track your speed, know exactly what kind of data you need to look up while on the road, and keep a record of your driving habits.

That’s all well and good as long as you need something like emergency roadside assistance or turn-by-turn directions to your destination. But what Schumer doesn’t like is the other ways that information can be used.

Schumer blasts Onstar for having the potential to sell that customer data to advertisers, even though the company says it has no plans to do so.

What Schumer is really annoyed at is the fact that customers are automatically put in a position where that data is accessible if Onstar changes its mind. Customers can opt out of any sort of third-party sharing, but not everyone is aware of that.

Even after customers discontinue their service, if their car is wired for Onstar, the company can continue collecting data.

“Onstar is attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory,” said Schumer. Al Franken (D-MN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) have joined in Schmer’s fight.

While Onstar has been around for several years, it is only recently that the service has been made available for all vehicles. Previously, it was a service for select GM models only.

But GM isn’t riled by Schumer’s complaints. The service’s VP of subscriber services clarified, “We apologize for creating any confusion about our terms and conditions.” She reiterated that no personal data is currently being sold to advertisers or any other third party.