BMW Fights Back Against Vicious Privacy Report Allegations

Industry News / 3 Comments

BMW North America says it does not sell customer in-vehicle personal information and has defenses for the other allegations, too.

A scathing report released last week alleged that several automakers were collecting and sharing customer data without consent. In the eye-widening report, the Mozilla Foundation describes all new cars as "privacy nightmares on wheels that collect huge amounts of personal information." Among the brands singled out for these questionable practices was BMW, which has refuted these claims in an official statement.

The North American subsidiary of the German automaker has outlined several inaccuracies in the report. The first point the company makes is that all BMW interfaces give customers the choice to opt in or out of data collection and processing that may happen within the vehicle. If you're worried about your privacy, perhaps you should check your settings next time you drive your 3 Series.

BMW says customers can opt out of all "optional data collection" about their vehicles "at any time" via the iDrive system in their cars. Data transfers from BMW vehicles to BMW services can also be stopped, but this would require owners to turn off the eSIM feature.

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The automaker admits that most customers "voluntarily enable" the eSim, as the emergency eCall and SoS service would not function if the connection was disabled.

Mozilla's study alleges claims car companies are sharing and selling personal data. BMW refutes this and states that any data collected is used for its own "marketing efforts, legal compliance obligations, law enforcement issues, and related items." Furthermore, the luxury carmaker says its customers can opt out of receiving any marketing communication or data collection "used to make inferences about drivers' preferences and habits."

BMW has also defended itself against allegations that claim it shares customer data with third parties, such as dealers and service providers. "BMW NA shares personal information with authorized dealers to better service our customers, and BMW NA customers choose which dealers they interact with."

The automaker says trusted third parties (such as advertising companies or email service providers) are contractually obliged to keep any shared information confidential.

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BMW also notes that any personal information it may share with business partners is done at the customer's request. Responding to claims about whether it shares or sells data with other third parties, the automaker says, "We would like to confirm that BMW NA's privacy policy explicitly states that BMW NA does not sell its customers' personal information, such as their names, addresses, driving habits, Vehicle Identification Numbers, or other information that is tied to the customers or their vehicles."

The automaker says it provides customers with several ways to delete their data entirely. This can be done via an online portal, the vehicle's iDrive system, or the My BMW mobile app.

"BMW NA voluntarily complies with every individual's privacy requests in the US regardless of the customer residing in a state where consumer privacy laws allow for such rights (whether relating to access, correction, deletion, or opting out of sale with respect to online behavioral advertising) exist," reads the statement.

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Lastly, BMW does not share driver data and personal information with insurance companies without consent. This is in response to an excerpt from the study: "You might not want your insurance company to know about your lead foot.... except, there's a pretty high likelihood that they already do."

BMW notes that insurance companies have their telematics-based insurance programs and adds that if BMW customers wish to share their telematics with insurance companies, that is their choice. "BMW merely ensures that any such sharing of data is done in an informed, controlled, consented, and secure manner."

While the manufacturer has denied all the claims in the report, customers of all brands are rightfully concerned about what is being done with their private data. As vehicles become more advanced and sophisticated, privacy appears to be diminished. And with data breaches becoming increasingly common, you can understand why there's such a furor around the topic.

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