Follows release of responses from Senator’s query of 14 automakers requesting additional information about privacy practices

Letter Text (PDF) | Automaker Responses (PDF)

Washington (February 28, 2024) - Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the data privacy practices of auto manufacturers. The letter sent this week follows the release of the responses to his December 2023 query of 14 car manufacturers asking for more information on implementation and enforcement of stronger privacy protections in their vehicles.

In the letter to Chair Khan, Senator Markey explains that automakers are collecting large amounts of data on drivers, passengers, and even people outside the vehicle, with little to no oversight. Location data, for example, has been exploited by abusive partners to track domestic violence victims. Given the risks and the automakers’ evasive and vague responses to his query, Senator Markey urged the FTC to take all necessary steps to protect user privacy.

In the letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan, Senator Markey wrote, “With new advances in vehicle technology and services, automakers have been vacuuming up huge amounts of data on drivers, passengers, and even individuals outside the vehicle. Based on public reporting and responses to my own inquiries into these practices, automakers face few, if any, limitations on the collection, use, and disclosure of this data. Consumers are often left in the dark. I therefore urge the FTC to investigate the automakers’ data practices and take all necessary actions to protect the privacy of all road users.”

Senator Markey continued, “This ambiguity and evasiveness calls out for the investigatory powers of the FTC. Given the serious risks to consumer privacy, I urge the Commission to use the full force of its authorities to investigate the automakers’ privacy practices and take all necessary enforcement actions to ensure that consumer privacy is protected. The auto industry cannot become yet another domain that tracks and targets consumers.”

The responses from the 14 auto manufacturers to Senator Markey’s December 2023 query can be found HERE.

In their responses, the automakers largely failed to answer important questions about whether they use the data for their own commercial benefit, whether a consumer loses functionality by refusing to consent to the data collection, and whether the manufacturers have suffered a cyberattack in recent months. In addition, 12 of the14 automakers wrote that they provide data to law enforcement, with most doing so only in response to a subpoena, warrant, or other legal order.