Warning: *privacy not included with this product
Japanese car maker Toyota is the global leader in car sales around the world. Toyota's brands include regular cars like the Corolla and Camry, trucks like the Tacoma and Tundra, minivans like the Sienna, SUVs like the 4Runner, Highlander, and Rav4, and of course their popular electric Prius. While Toyota might not be known as the coolest car brand, they sure are reliable, dependable, and popular.
The Toyota app lets you start and stop, lock and unlock, set predetermined privileges for guest drivers, find your car in a parking lot, and even monitor how you drive to tell you if you're a terrible driver (or to help you become more efficient, we suppose). The app works for users of most Toyotas 2018 and newer and some older vehicles as well. So, how does Toyota do at protecting your privacy? Let's just say this privacy researcher is pretty happy she drives a old 2002 Toyota with none of the sensors and connected features. Toyotas are reliable, yes. Private, maybe not so much.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Oof....Toyota. As the most popular car brand in the world, we really hoped you would have better privacy practices and track records for respecting and protecting the huge amounts of personal information you say you can collect. Unfortunately, that is not what we found in our research. We're afraid Toyota's "Let's Go Places" slogan means they really want to tag along and learn all they can about you on the way.
Where to start with our concerns about Toyota's privacy practices? Maybe with the fact that Toyota promotes itself as very privacy friendly while doing too many things that are anything but. For example, on Toyota's Privacy Hub, they mention right off the top that they "play a key role in the development and adoption of the Automotive Consumer Privacy Protection Principles." This sounds great, right? Well, it does until you look at it more closely. Those privacy principles were created by the automakers themselves back in 2014 to show they were taking privacy seriously.
However, if you look closely, you'll see that Toyota, and nearly all the automakers we reviewed, don't actually follow their own principles for privacy. Those include things like "Data Minimization" (the idea they collected only what data is needed), "Data Security" (securing the data they do collect), "Transparency" (providing users clear, meaningful privacy information), and "Choice" (offering users choice in how their data use and collecting, and "Respect for Context" (using and sharing information only for what it was collected). Our research shows that Toyota (and pretty much every other car maker we reviewed who signed onto these principles) absolutely do not follow these promises at all. Toyota collects a ton of data -- way more than is likely necessary, they admit to sharing and even selling some of it with third parties for their own marketing purposes, they've had security lapses that put their users' personal information at risk, and they continue to expand their data collect to make more money off of the treasure trove of data they collect. Toyota isn't alone in this, but they are the ones bragging about playing a key role in setting up automotive privacy principles that they themselves don't seem to follow.
That being said, we do give Toyota a thumbs up for granting all people in the US, not just those covered by California's strong CCPA privacy law, the same rights to do things like have their data deleted or opt out of having some of their data sold. These are good rights that we feel should absolutely be granted to everyone, regardless of whether they live under stronger privacy laws like California's CCPA or the EU's GDPR. We can't confirm if Toyota grants everyone, everywhere the same rights to access, delete, and control their data though, which is not good. We would love to see them step up and clearly say they will do this.
Toyota says they can collect a whole heap of personal information on you through your car, the Toyota app, and their connected services. This includes everything from personally identifying information such as name, address, phone number, email, online identifier, social media ID, and demographic information such as your age, to driving behavior such as acceleration and speed, steering, and breaking functionality, and travel direction, to lots of information about your car including VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), interior and exterior image data from cameras and sensors in your car, facial geometric features. They even can collect sensitive personal information such as precise geolocation data, biometric information. On top of all this, they say they can collect lots of information about you from other sources such as social media, public sources, data brokers, data providers, your friends, and more. Toyota is collecting a whole lot of information on you. Oh, and if you use any of those mobile services like SiriusXM radio, wi-fi connectivity, navigation, or even let your insurance track your usage, well, those places can all collect your personal information too.
So, what does Toyota say they can do with this treasure trove of information? Well, some of it they seem to treat responsibly. Like the facial geometric features they get when they scan your face to identify your for your driver profile they say will only be processed and stored on your car. That is good. Unfortunately, Toyota says they can do lots more with so much of all that other information they collect on you. For one, they say they can share or sell your personal information to third parties for targeted advertising purposes. Even worse, they don't 100% commit to not processing, or potentially even sharing, your sensitive personal information -- things like your precise geolocation data, biometric information for the purpose of uniquely identifying an individual, and financial information. In fact, they qualify the use of that sensitive information in ways that leave us uncomfortable. They say, "Where required by law, we will obtain your consent before processing your sensitive Personal Information. We will also generally use your sensitive Personal Information for limited purposes..." This vague, qualifying language about how they say they can handle and share your sensitive personal information does not leave us feeling good about Toyota's overall privacy practices.
Toyota's ecosystem of parent companies and affiliates, dealers and distributors is also vast. These include things like Toyota Financial Services and your local "dealer advertising associations." These are all places Toyota says they can share your personal information. We also found Toyota Connected Europe, which seems to be a Toyota-affiliated data business that uses all the vast amounts of data cars, car apps, and car mobile services can collect to develop better connected cars, understand driver behavior better, make cars safer (yay!), help drivers develop more energy efficient driving behavior, and more. Some of these things are very useful and beneficial to society. Some of them might not be. And remember, Toyota is in the business of selling more cars, and thus, collecting more data to sell more cars. Toyota Connected Europe describe data as follows: "It’s the lifeblood of our business and powers everything we do." We share this as a reminder that for car companies like Toyota, data is a huge and growing business as cars become ever more connected (Toyota Connected Europe describe themselves on their web page as a "young business".) Guess what, we've got another Toyota slogan that applies here! "You are what drives us." Another way of saying your data is what drives our business (to be fair, data is what drives most businesses these days…unfortunately for privacy it's the way the world now works).
What's the worst that could happen in your Toyota car with Toyota's app and Connected Services and on-board cameras sharing data with their parent companies, business affiliate, car dealers, third party advertisers, and more? Well, Toyota could know everywhere you drive (they probably do) and know where you like to shop and when and then you could have "relevant to your location" ads follow you all around targeting you to buy more stuff. That could be OK. It also could suck if you're trying to drink less alcohol and every time you drive near a liquor store you get an ad for beer. OK, maybe that's not the worst things that could happen. We can actually think of many worse things. But this is something that could way too easily happen and it is bad enough. Hey Toyota, maybe we can ask you to be "Inspired by what's possible" and collect way less personal information on your car owners and give people more of an ability to protect their privacy when driving your cars. Now that would be privacy "Built for how you live." Unfortunately we have a slogan of our own for Toyota: *Privacy Not Included.
Tips to protect yourself
- Do not give consent to tailored advertisement.
- Opt out from selling of your personal information, as well as from Cross-context Behavioral Advertising.
- Always do a factory reset on your car before selling or trading it away to wipe your data clean and disconnect the app.
- Before reselling your car, make sure to notify the company
- When buying a used car, always make the previous owner removed their connected account and performed a factory reset.
- Always use strong passwords and set up two-factor authentication for apps and services that connect to your car
- Only give access to your data to trusted third-parties
- When connecting a mobile app to the car, make sure to minimize the amount of data collected through this app. You can use iOS or Android settings to limit the data collected through your phone.
- Opt out from your mobile device's location sharing.
- Do not use Amazon Alexa in your car if you are concerned about Amazon collecting that voice request information, IP address, and geolocation information and using it to target you with advertising.
What can be used to sign up?
What data does the company collect?
"Name, address, phone number, email address, language preference and other information linked or directly related to you, location. inferred preferences Vehicle-and driving-related data: vehicle’s make, model, year, body type, VIN and other information linked to your vehicle so we can verify your vehicle type and provide Connected Services, driving behavior data (“Driving Data”) which includes the acceleration and speed at which your vehicle is driven, travel direction, and use of the steering and breaking functionality in your vehicle"
"Facial Geometric Features, Voice Recordings." "Your Facial Geometric Features will only be stored on your vehicle."
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
Toyota leaked data of 2.15 million users over 10 years between 2013 and 2023. The information exposed in the misconfigured database includes:
- the in-vehicle GPS navigation terminal ID number,
- the chassis number, and
- vehicle location information with time data.
Another possible leak that affected 300,000 users was revealed by Toyota in 2022. Toyota discovered that a portion of the T-Connect site source code was mistakenly published on GitHub and contained an access key to the data server that stored customer email addresses and management numbers.
In 2020, a major vulnerability has been revealed that affected the encryption systems used by Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia.
Child Privacy Information
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Toyota has a vast number of privacy policies, notices, statements, and the like for their vehicles, onboard cameras, apps, and seperate Toyota Supra app made by BMW that leaves a user searching and sorting through multiple privacy documents and various company privacy policies.
Links to privacy information
- Toyota Privacy Hub
- US-only Toyota Privacy Statement
- Toyota Connected Services Privacy Notice for the US
- Toyota Privacy Rights FAQ
- Toyota Europe Data Recipeints
- Toyota Privacy Notice for Data Collection in the EU Through ON-Board Cameras
- Toyota Connected EU
- Toyota Insurance Management Solutions Privacy Statement
- ALLGEMEINE TOYOTA DATENSCHUTZERKLÄRUNG
- General Toyota Europe Privacy & Data Protection Policy
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
Toyota says it "employs layers of defense to drive strong safeguarding practices, such as, where appropriate, code and design reviews, security testing, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, signing and encryption." However, we cannot determine if all data sitting on the car, including telematic data the car collects as well as data shared when you connect your phone sits encrypted, and if all collected data is encrypted in transit. We reached out to the company to attempt to determine this multiple times and received no response.
Toyota runs a bug bounty program on HackerOne.
Toyota Safety Sense™ uses radars and cameras to offer Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Tracing Assist, Road Sign Assist, etc. These features are enabled by numerous cameras, sensors and radars on the car.
Is this AI untrustworthy?
What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?
Is the company transparent about how the AI works?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
Privacy Concerns Aren't Keeping Automakers From Selling Massive Amounts of Your DataNewsweek
From Ferrari to Ford, Cybersecurity Bugs Plague Automotive SafetyDark Reading
Web Hackers vs. The Auto Industry: Critical Vulnerabilities in Ferrari, BMW, Rolls Royce, Porsche, and MoreSam Curry
Critical flaws found in Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, and other carmakersSecurity Affairs
Toyota Reveals Data Leak of 300,000 CustomersInfosecurity Magazine
Toyota: Car location data of 2 million customers exposed for ten yearsBleeping Computer
More than 2 million Toyota users face risk of vehicle data leak in JapanReuters
Toyota confirms another years-long data leak, this time exposing at least 260,000 car ownersTechCrunch
Toyota Discloses Decade-Long Data Leak Exposing 2.15M Customers' DataDark Reading
SiriusXM Software Flaw Let Researchers Unlock And Start Cars RemotelyMotor 1
Hackers Can Clone Millions of Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia KeysWired
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