Holy cow! When we published our cars and privacy product guide, a lot of people wanted to talk to us about it (not to brag). Besides talk radio hosts and international news outlets, we got the chance to speak with some movers and shakers from the United States government and European parliament. The research hit home for a lot of people, including (apparently) Senator Markey of Massachusetts and his team, who have called out car-makers’ bad behavior before. Like so many of you, they didn’t like what they read in our research about car companies' privacy practices. Now, we are excited to see that they’re taking action.

In case you (somehow) missed it, in September, we published a product guide on 25 of the world’s top car brands. The findings? Cars are -- by far -- the worst product category for privacy that we have ever reviewed. They collect too much data and so much of it is way too personal (“sex life”? “genetic information”?!). Then, they often share and even sell it. Oh, and their security standards? Questionable. Their track records? Mostly terrible too.

The thing is, our research left us with so many more questions than answers. Questions that car companies didn’t seem interested in addressing, since they mostly ghosted us. But today, Senator Markey is writing to those companies to ask them some questions of his own -- and to put them on notice with a December 21st deadline. And, unlike our emails, we’re pretty sure these have to be answered. For justice!

Here’s the letter Senator Markey sent to BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Stellantis, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, and Volkswagen:

Senator Markey and team, you nailed it. We love the part where you said:

In fact, a recent report from Mozilla revealed unfettered data collection and privacy intrusion sacross huge swaths of the automobile industry.¹ These business practices must end. In light of these concerning reports, I am writing to request additional information about your company’s policies on data collection, use, and disclosure. I also urge your company to implement and enforce strong privacy protections for consumers to ensure that cars do not become another critical area where privacy is disappearing.

Edward J. Markey, United States Senator

We can’t wait to finally get answers to questions about the what, why, and how of car companies data collection programs. Like when Senator Markey asks car companies to “identify every source of data collection in your new model vehicles, including each type of sensor, interface, or point of collection from the individual and the purpose of that data collection.” Indeed, please do, car companies! Oh and, “Has your company ever provided to law enforcement personal information collected by a vehicle?” Drivers deserve to know.

When we were doing our research into cars and their abysmal practices, the car manufacturers refused to answer our questions about their privacy and security. Which left us feeling like they had something to hide. It is amazing to see Senator Markey step in and demand answers to the questions all consumers now have about how these big car companies are collecting, sharing, selling, and protecting their personal information. This is exactly the action from lawmakers and regulators we need to drive these companies to do better.

Jen Caltrider, *Privacy Not Included

Ah! After a rough year for privacy, with creepiness levels reaching what feels like an all-time high, we are so happy to see legislators listen to the voice of the people and stand up for privacy where it matters most.

So, that’s that. We wanted to let you know that all of your reading, sharing, and petition-signing… It’s working! Together, we can (and already are) making a difference. Go you! Go us! And thank you for joining our fight. Oh and if you haven’t yet, you can still add your name here, asking car companies to stop their huge data collection programs. Or shoot a donation our way to help support doing more of this work!

Jen Caltrider

Jen Caltrider

During a rather unplanned stint working on my Master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence, I quickly discovered I’m much better at telling stories than writing code. This discovery led to an interesting career as a journalist covering technology at CNN. My true passion in life has always been to leave the world a little better than I found it. Which is why I created and lead Mozilla's *Privacy Not Included work to fight for better privacy for us all.

Misha Rykov

Misha Rykov

Kyiv-native and Berlin-based, Misha worked in big tech and security consulting, before joining Mozilla's privacy effort. Misha loves investigative storytelling and hates messy privacy policies. Misha is an advocate for stronger and smarter privacy regulations, as well as for safer Internet.

Zoë MacDonald

Zoë MacDonald

Zoë is a writer and digital strategist based in Toronto, Canada. Before her passion for digital rights led her to Mozilla and *Privacy Not Included, she wrote about cybersecurity and e-commerce. When she’s not being a privacy nerd at work, she’s side-eyeing smart devices at home.

*privacy not included