New OnStar Policy Raises User Concerns About Privacy
Last week, General Motors supported OnStar system subscribers began receiving an e-mail with a change in their Terms of Service Agreement. The changes are mainly related to cancellations and to the use of the data collected by the device. The OnStar system collects, stores and sends vehicle and location data to the provider command center. Some of the services are Automatic Crash Response, Emergency Services, Turn-by-turn Navigation, e-Nav, Stolen Vehicle Tracking and Roadside Assistance. The system is available on GM and Non GM vehicles.
Two changes in the policy are raising privacy concerns:
(1) If a you cancel the service and leave the unit installed in the car, OnStar will stop monitoring the vehicle for the featured charged services but will still be receiving your location tracking and vehicle technical data using the OnStar two way cellular device built- in the unit. Until now, when OnStar service stopped, so did the vehicle’s two-way communications system. As of Dec. 1, however, that will not be the case. Vehicles of users who no longer subscribe will still be sending data via the system’s still-active two-way cellular link. In other words, you will not receive any benefits but will still be sending your vehicle location tracking and technical data to OnStar. The good news is that if you cancel and request that your two-way link be shut down, OnStar will comply. As a default however, users who do not call requesting the two-way cellular shutdown will keep on sending user data.
(2) Under the new terms, OnStar reserves the right to share the information it collects with other companies and organizations. Vijay Iyer, an OnStar spokesman, said in a telephone interview with the New York Times that “OnStar maintains the cellular connection after the subscription is canceled, as a practice intended to collect data that could be useful to municipalities, for example, trying to improve traffic flow or to first responders attempting to determine the severity of a crash before arriving at the scene”. Does this last statement means that OnStar will keep providing emergency services even when a user cancels the paid monitoring service? If it does not, there is no reason to leave the cellular two-way unit active when canceling.Continued on the next page