back to article BMW: ADMEN have asked us for YOUR connected car DATA

US technology companies and advertisers have been seeking access to the data generated by sensors in so-called "connected cars", a senior figure at German car manufacturer BMW has said. Ian Robertson, BMW head of sales and marketing, said BMW had so far resisted requests to share connected car data with those businesses, …

  1. James Micallef Silver badge

    So from now on, besides the obligatory research, test drives, service guarantees etc I'll have one more question to ask any vendor when I'm buying a car - will you explicitly include in writing as part of any purchase contract that you will never pass my data on to any third party, AND that I can have access to that data on request.

    No deal, no sale

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Or connect it yourself

      Just buy a dumb and connect it yourself. Yeah, I know - this is rapidly becoming something that is off the menu.

    2. Mark 65

      A better question is "can I disable your needless live monitoring of my vehicle using an implanted SIM card?"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This could really hurt the rollout of connected cars and eventually self-driving cars

    I had decided years ago that if I buy a new car that includes something like OnStar I'd remove the SIM, because I don't want to be able to be easily tracked. But now that I carry a phone with me everywhere, worrying about the government tracking my car is pointless - I'm forced to trade that privacy if I want a smartphone.

    If I have to worry about Google-like data slurping for advertisers I may be forced rule out buying a new car and stick to the used market, because "connected cars" do not provide me anything I care about. When we reach actual self-driving cars someday, then I'd probably be willing to make that trade because that's a pretty big step up in convenience.

    You can bet Google won't have any compunction about selling us out if any automakers use their technology for self-driving, so hopefully there will remain options like BWM that refuse to sell us out - similar to the Apple option where I pay more for my phone but don't get sold to advertisers like Google does for Android.

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: This could really hurt the rollout of connected cars and eventually self-driving cars

      Is this not what pliers were made for or a lump hammer? I am not sure where the data would display in a car, so I guess that one could block out the panel if incoming junk became an issue, but what a bl**dy cheek of the thieves.

      How would popping up unwanted junk would sit with laws on mobile phone use and distracting drivers? This could have more legs than the proverbial whatever.

      However, given my age and my habit of keeping cars for a very long time it might not be too big an issue for me, still it is a point to keep in mind.

      Just make sure none of the Parasite Protection Invective (PPI) or ambulance chasing "you have had an accident" mob get into this business! Hanging, drawing and quartering would be far too good for the crooks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This could really hurt the rollout of connected cars and eventually self-driving cars

        You think it is only a problem if they deliver ads to you in the car? If the automaker sold your info to advertisers, they'd surely sell it alongside your name so they'd know where you go, where you live, where you work, where you shop, what pubs you visit, what airports you leave your car parked at and how often/for how long, etc.

        This is a gold mine for advertisers, and they'd link it to all the various ways they deliver crap at you so you'd get everything from calls offering better medical plans if you spend a lot of time parked at the doctor's office to emails offering discount parking if you choose to fly out from a competing airport.

        1. DainB Bronze badge

          No need a car for that

          You already carrying mobile phone which happily provides all this information and much much more.

          And it's already being sold to whoever wants buy it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No need a car for that

            If you're running Android, yes. Not if you're running iOS. Apple isn't selling that data, iPhone owners are its customers, not its product as with Google.

            1. Richard Jones 1

              Re: No need a car for that

              Hang on, IOS has that dumb leach beacon system that is supposed to flash up messages as you walk past stores and eating places. I think that what you meant was that iPhone users are to be farmed but only if apple and only apple can monetise them and make a turn on the deal.

              The phone co has location data even for my dumb phone and could sell the cell site data if it was so inclined. I can only be loosely tracked that way as do not have exact location data capability on my phone, it is one of the advantages of not having a chatty modern phone but one that is just a phone and nothing else.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                iBeacon vs Google

                iBeacon isn't Apple technology, it is Paypal Beacon relabeled. It also doesn't send out any information from the user's phone, and is easily disabled. It is designed to receive ads, not send out a user's personal information. The ads relevance is based on the fact you're already in the store - it is the modern equivalent of announcing a special over the PA system in a store.

                Can you disable Google from collecting and selling your data from using their apps and using Android? No, you can't, so they're not nearly so similar as you try to imply.

                1. Mike Bell

                  Re: iBeacon vs Google

                  Actually, it's designed to receive information like, for example, whereabouts you are in a building with no GPS visibility. But you're right, the knee-jerk Apple bashing in respect of privacy is completely unwarranted, as is so so often the case.

          2. P. Lee

            Re: No need a car for that

            >ou already carrying mobile phone which happily provides all this information and much much more.

            >And it's already being sold to whoever wants buy it.

            Plus, your car has a radio in it, one of the few places radios are still listened to.

            How about targeting adverts for the local "food" outlets with extra information - "just 300 yards ahead on your left."

            I don't want a connected car thank-you. Any data collected should be useful to the person in car, or the person with the engine diagnostic computer. It doesn't need to go further.

          3. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: No need a car for that

            You already carrying mobile phone which happily provides all this information and much much more.

            Not all phones are smartphones, and not all smartphones blab your location data to the world's biggest advertising platform anyway.

  3. nematoad Silver badge


    Connected cars?

    The only connection I want with my car is that between the tyres and the road.

    But then I am an old dinosaur who does not want my car to talk to me, tell me where to go or try to entertain me.

    It's a car for heavens sake, you know the thing that gets you from A to B.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What?

      Same here.

      My first question would be "how do I switch all that shit off."

      1. dan1980

        Re: What?


        My first question would be "how do I switch all that shit off."

        The answer to that will depend on how these early cases go and how blase people are about them. If the vast majority of people just shrug and let it happen then in the future, all cars will be so connected and data will be shared as a matter of course.

        The answer to your question will then be: "you can't and any attempt to do so will void your warranty".

        1. Mark 65

          Re: What?

          @dan1980: The saving grace is that, due to the fallibility of mobile phone networks, the operation of this component can in no way be critical to the operation of the vehicle. Networks go down, cells can be too busy, you can be out of a coverage area etc. Thus find the SIM and remove/break it. I'd imagine there would be a healthy after market for such a service.

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: What?

        sorry, you got it wrong. Several cars I've rented in the USofA have a nagging habit of forgetting the settings. One totally lost itself because the battery had to be replaced (2month old car). Nothing worked apart from the stupid 'get me to a dealer mode'. The nearest dealer wanted $500 to re-enable the car. Thankfully the Rental Company told them what they could do with their business in the future if they charged for the service.

        Just a glimpse of the future IMHO

        So your post should read

        My first question would be "how do I switch all that shit off SO THAT IT NEVER COMES BACK ON?"

        It looks like my next car will be my last. I really don't want all this shite.

  4. Dan Paul

    It had better be optional...@nematoad have an upvote!

    I'm a fellow Dinosaur and I don't agree with the concept of a connected car either. It had better be an option, just like the dongle that you can choose (so far) to have installed that rats you out to the insurance agency for high acceleration/deceleration. The insurance agency is only the tip of the iceberg, what about the state or federal governments, the banks, manufacturers etc? They could all make your life pretty miserable if they wanted to. Besides tracking your movements, they can disable the vehicle anytime they want. I will not buy a car with OnStar or any other similar system. I am already "connected" as much as I care to be.

    The other problem is that the more complex the manufacturers make their products, the more that will go wrong with them. They DON"T care because it raises profits for the dealer and the manufacturers.

    I grow wistful for that old '59 Ford Fairlane with the six cylinder I had years ago that had enough room under the hood to smuggle 5 people into the drive in (let alone the trunk). It was easy to fix because it was easy to understand and you did not need to drop the engine to change the plugs or the headlight bulbs because they left ROOM to work on it. Almost like the engineers knew what they were doing back then.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should you not be concentrating on driving when you're operating a tonne+ of metal at speed?

    I can think of circumstances when knowing -say- what food is available in the next few miles would come in handy; but it should absolutely, definitely and positively be a pull from the driver (after they have got safely into a lay-by or (let's be honest) a straight bit without too much traffic) and not a push from advertising companies. Otherwise it's dangerous and will kill people sooner or later.

    Also, the data belongs to the car owner. It is very important to remember this.

  6. Jes.e

    Many people don't own their cars..

    ..they lease them.

    This gives automakers an incentive to monitize you.

    By selling your info they can reduce the cost of your vehicle..

    (except it won't)

    1. admiraljkb

      Re: Many people don't own their cars..

      @Jes.e - Yeah, you are frightfully correct. If you LEASE the vehicle, there would be little you could do to stop this sort of thing. Unfortunately - if you think about it, even if you get a bank loan, the Bank could put provisions in there to give a better interest rate if you agree to getting tracked. Or they could be complete asses about it (since its technically their car until you pay it completely off) and make it mandatory... I'm not sure I like where this might be headed... Once businesses see new ways to further monetize current revenue streams, it seems to be hard to stop.

    2. Thought About IT

      Re: Many people don't own their cars..

      I suppose that'll apply to hire cars as well. Time for a startup making Faraday shields.

  7. Cynic_999

    Companies getting the data for marketing purposes could be annoying, but governments getting the data to store as "intelligence" could have far worse consequences. Instead of using manpower and detective work, police would far rather sit in an office and let a computer do the legwork. So they may, for example, get a computer to sort through terabytes of data to determine which cars stopped at and left the scene of a crime at about the relevant times. Any matches sees the drivers suddenly subjected to a very unpleasant time - maybe even found guilty of a crime. Juries are apt to fall for "scientific evidence" as being "proof beyond reasonable doubt" (look at DNA evidence). In this case "computer says he is guilty" could be persuasive. The problem of course being that the more data you have, the more matches you will get purely due to coincidence, but to the average juror it will still look extremely improbable that you drove to 5 different places at exactly the times they were robbed purely by chance.

    1. dan1980


      If data exists, our governments will want - and get - access to it. EVERY data collection agreement (i.e. 'privacy agreement') contain the clause that data will be shared to comply with law enforcement requests.

      The only way to prevent governments getting hold of this information is to not generate it in the first place.

      And that is why NO provision of a service or supply of a product should ever be contingent on gathering information beyond what is absolutely necessary, and - even then - data should be destroyed as soon as it is no longer absolutely needed.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Weasel words

    "had so far resisted requests"

    Should be "under no circumstances will accede to requests at any time in the past or future". Not that it will affect the probability of my ever buying a BMW.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Weasel words

      You beat me to it. 'Resisted' just has too much of the ring of 'being coy until the price is right'.

      Hot on the heels of the data pimping will be the optional 'Add ons' upgrade to allow for 'AdBlock+ for Motors' etc.

  9. Frank N. Stein

    I don't own nor want a "connected car". The used market with cars prior to this whole "connected car" nonsense works just fine for me. I have a cell phone if I need to "connect", but there are laws in my state that deliver heavy fines for texting and driving, so a connected car isn't providing me with anything I need or want. But if I did want a connected car, it's good to know that BMW protects user info in the EU. I seriously doubt they'd do that here in the USA.

  10. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    So how much will I get paid?

    First off, I will never buy a "connected" car if there is any way for it to phone back my present location (without me hitting some emergency button first). I don't trust GM (or Toyota, or BMW, Audi, Hyundai, etc.), don't trust advertisers (the US basically has no privacy laws the way most EU countries do) and don't trust the Feds to not override both of the above to slurp data (not to target me, just to pull an NSA and decide it'd be "neat" to collect the data just because they can.)

    Second though... in Japan, there's the option to have your car display... well, ads... I think to make it sound useful they refer to it as sponsored personalized information on available nearby services. ***BUT***, if you elect to do this Toyota actually CHARGES LOWER MONTHLY PAYMENTS in return for this, you effectively are paid for giving up your information. They found that people there were not willing to give up information without compensation, and they have functional privacy laws so they'd be (probably) be sued into oblivion if they decided they would just do it and not tell anyone.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: So how much will I get paid?


      For now. Eventually it will be a charge for not taking the service.

      eg, you used to get a discount for paying utility bils by direct debit. Now you get charged extra for not paying by DD "to reflect the higher costs of handling the transaction"

      1. F0rdPrefect

        Re: So how much will I get paid?

        Discount for paying by DD or charge for not paying by DD is just semantics.

        You still pay less if you pay by DD, they just adjusted the headline price to the lower figure because it looked better.

        I was there when one company did the changeover and those already paying by DD carried on paying what they always had, but there was no discount showing on their bill.

    2. John Sturdy

      Re: So how much will I get paid?

      Or you can let it display the ads, and deliberately not buy anything you remember having seen advertised.

  11. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I don't want a "personalized motoring experience".

    I just want to drive the damn car and not have to up with any BS like "targeted ads".... I'm against the same crap on my browser but then, there's ADBLOCK for that. I wonder if it would work on a car?

  12. Thought About IT

    Dangers of encryption

    "In the future, supervisory authorities are expected to increasingly pay special attention to vehicle IT, including investigating whether the scope for attacks could be reduced by suitable encryption"

    Won't encryption make it more likely that the vehicles could be used for terrorist attacks?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dangers of encryption

      "Q: Won't encryption make it more likely that the vehicles could be used for terrorist attacks?"

      Answer from Cameron: Oh yes it will.

      Answer from Obama: Oh no it won't.

      See, that's what the Special Relationshit is all about.

  13. Scott Broukell

    Only intermittently connected.

    For the moment at least, my car can only be described as 'connected' when a tow rope is making that connection twixt it and any given recovery vehicle.

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: Only intermittently connected.

      Ditto here when my Landie makes a larder filling intermittent connection with a stray sheep.

  14. Elmer Phud

    Special relationship

    Nice to be in the EU but will the desperation to go with TTIP be too much of a carrot?

    'You can do big trade with us as long as we get ALL your data'

    At least BMW are being cautious, whether it's down to their own altruistic decison or EU laws - I dunno.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So how do I shut it off?

    Just bought a new-to-me car whose manual tells me:

    ------ 8< ------

    Your vehicle has computers that monitor and control certain aspects of your vehicle.

    Besides storing data useful for troubleshooting, there is an event data recorder (EDR) that records data in a crash or a near car crash event.

    [description of data collected]

    [Manufacturer] will not disclose the data recorded in an EDR to a third party except when:

    o Officially requested by the police or other authorities

    o Used as a defense for Toyota in a law suit

    o Ordered by a court

    o [....]

    ------ >8 ------

    So now it's off to find maintenance manuals, and hope the widget can be disabled without side effects....

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And that is *news*?

    Honestly, BMW is clearly desperate to get in the news.

    I started asking these questions when I saw that the car I wanted to buy had an interface to show Google maps, and this was at least 2 years ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the answer (from upon high, these people take privacy very serious) - I am barred by confidentiality to name names or background, but the car manufacturer in question gateways everything Google gets, so Google is in their case only a data provider. It is not a spy on your movements (which, by the way, is my main worry about any self driving car Google is ever going to put on the road - I bet it will be replete with sensors, possibly even monitoring your reaction to the ads it will inevitably try to fill your idle time with).

    Having said that - that still means the car manufacturer has that data. I know Mercedes has some "assistance" things on board that basically track you and (if I recall correctly) can even listen in, that is not the kind of stuff I would ever approve of, assuming I knew it was there, of course.

    1. Medixstiff

      Re: And that is *news*?

      "I bet it will be replete with sensors, possibly even monitoring your reaction to the ads it will inevitably try to fill your idle time with)"

      Good luck there, I'll probably be snoring away, if they have an audible alarm go off, I'll just get some ear plugs. When I want to sleep, nothing wakes me short of the roof falling on my head.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And that is *news*?

        ...and that can be arranged with a soft-top

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