Toyota is Accused of Collecting and Sharing Driver Data

In addition to providing internet-based messaging, audio streaming, and navigation, many modern cars are also capable of gathering a vast amount of data about their drivers and their destinations. However, in what way the collected data is used, raises certain concerns.

Toyota was recently accused in Australia of harvesting and potentially exploiting the data of its customers by “collecting extensive customer data” and potentially sharing it with third parties, including insurance companies and debt collection agencies.

Related: Data of 2 Million Toyota Customers Leaked in Japan

Dr Katharine Kemp, from the Faculty of Law & Justice at the University of New South Wales, says cars can collect information through features like their cameras, sensors, and internet-connected systems, but also from drivers’ mobile devices and their dealings with related third parties. She said:

“When consumers attempt to find out how much data is being collected, who it’s being shared with, and for what purposes, they will find very vague, broadly worded privacy policies that are aimed at giving the car companies permission rather than protecting the consumer. I think it’s an appalling way to treat consumers, to be providing essentially no privacy choices, and it emphasizes that cars are the Wild West of consumer privacy. This is a massive problem that governments, including ours, are failing to address.”

Mathew, a loyal Toyota customer from Queensland told consumer advocacy group CHOICE that he backed out of purchasing a Toyota Pickup after learning about the data collection behind the company’s Connected Services system. According to the program’s policy document, Toyota gathers data from drivers for a variety of reasons if they choose not to opt-out, including safety, security, research, product development, and data analysis. However, the company may also share this data with unaffiliated third parties, including debt collection agencies, market research organizations, and finance and insurance companies.

Related: Toyota Says EVs ‘Impractical’ for Australian Drivers- Tesla Retaliates Against ‘Cynical’ Attack

The policy says “Connected Services operate by using data collected from you and your vehicle, including your personal information, vehicle information, and vehicle location.” Mathew told the ABC’s The World Today he was surprised by what he discovered about the car he paid a deposit for. He said:

“The more I looked into it, the way that Toyota can log into your car remotely, keep a record of all sorts of bits and pieces, and possibly share your driving behavior with your insurance company — I just thought the whole lot outweighed the benefits. It would be really good if you could make it optional. I see some people would probably like [those services], but I think there’s an awful lot of people who wouldn’t like it.”

Rafi Alam from CHOICE told The World Today: “When we looked at Toyota’s privacy policy, we found that these Connected Services features will collect data such as fuel levels, odometer readings, vehicle location, and driving data, as well as personal information like phone numbers and email addresses.”

Related: Toyota Loses DPF Class Action Appeal in Australia

Toyota Australia says it takes customer privacy “extremely seriously”. In a statement to ABC News, the company said customers could opt out of Connected Services, but that doing so would disable other features including Bluetooth and speaker functionality. Toyota said removing the SIM card which enables the service would not void a vehicle’s warranty, but any work carried out by a non-Toyota technician would not be covered by that warranty.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments