HomeLifeDrivePrivacy – now you can't even get it going for a drive

Privacy – now you can’t even get it going for a drive

Privacy – do you have trouble getting even just a little these days? With Australia’s major cities becoming more densely populated, it’s no easy task. There was a time when you could switch on the radio or TV for some ‘you’ time – and some privacy.

But of course smart devices have changed all that. Televisions are hooked up to the internet. They’re recording your viewing preferences and using that data to lure you into watching other shows. And if you’re listening to your radio via ‘Alexa’ or similar, rest assured, your words are being heard.

So what is there left for you to do to gain a bit of privacy? How about jumping into the car and going for a nice long drive? That will give you the privacy you crave, won’t it?

Well, maybe not.

Big trucker is watching you

A new investigation conducted by consumer advocate CHOICE has uncovered ‘features’ in some cars that raise privacy concerns. And based on the story of Mathew, the subject of CHOICE’s case in point, there’s very little you can do about it.

This case concerns a new Toyota Hilux ordered by Mathew. He was looking forward to receiving his new SUV ute, ordered several months in advance. However, when it arrived at the dealership Mathew discovered something that made him feel uneasy. The Hilux he’d ordered had tracking features.

The existence of this tracking technology in his new ute was not outlined to Mathew when placing his order. In fact, he may not have found out about what he considered an invasion of privacy had he not received an email asking him to sign up to ‘Toyota Connected Services’.

“I’d never heard about it, and the dealer never told me about it at all,” he said.

Not comfortable with the idea of having his whereabouts known at all times, Mathew asked for the feature to be disabled. And that’s when mud hit the engine fan.

Mathew was told the tracking feature could be disabled, but it could be switched on again remotely without his knowledge. What’s more, disabling the tracking feature would void his warranty. He was even told that doing so might put his insurance at risk.

That was enough for Mathew: “I said, ‘You guys can keep your vehicle.’”

This was very disappointing for Mathew, who was a long-term loyal Toyota customer. But his disappointment did not end there. When placing his order, he had put down a $2000 deposit. Now, Toyota was refusing to refund that deposit.

Cars and privacy in the modern world

To be fair to Toyota, it should be pointed out that what it calls ‘Connected Services’ are to be found in virtually all new cars. According to a report released by US-based Mozilla Foundation, cars actually rank among the worst products in relation to privacy.

“Consumers don’t have a real choice,” said Mozilla Foundation’s Jen Caltrider. It’s have a car and have no privacy, or don’t have a car. It’s not a real choice.”

The Mozilla report reviewed 25 car brands. It found that 84 per cent of them collected data and then shared or sold that data to third parties. Only Renault and Darcia offered the privacy option of having data deleted.

Having initially denied his deposit refund, Toyota eventually returned Mathew’s $2000. They acknowledged he should have been made aware of ‘Connected Services’. They also advised that the disabling of the feature would not have voided his warranty.

But the disabling of such features in an attempt at maintaining privacy could have other consequences. Features such as Bluetooth and speaker systems may cease to work.

A brand new car comes with many new and wonderful features that can make your drive more enjoyable. But as Mathew found out, they come at a price – one that strips not only your bank account but your privacy, too.

Have you purchased a new vehicle recently? Were you advised of its data collection features? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Australia becoming a ‘dumping ground’ for polluting cars

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


    • It’s not about hiding something, it’s about having your data sold for profit to big corporations who then use it to sell you more ‘stuff’. At least consumers should be made aware of this and be able to exercise choice.

  1. Today a car company that came up with a low tech car would be quite successful. There are far too many ‘tech’ features in cars today that do not make any sense, nor contribute to the joy of driving, plus now invading our privacy and using our data to make more profits.

  2. I purchased a Subaru Forester 2023 model via a company that sources the vehicle for you. Living the other side of the Blue Mountains the dealer chosen by the company was based at Parramatta.
    Having not purchased a new car for 20 years I chose to have the vehicle delivered as I have not travelled in City traffic for 10 years!
    Problem: I visited Bathurst Subaru to ask with help with all the electronics that I never had on my 20yo 4WD. Sorry, it was not purchased from us so we cannot help you! Customer Service!!!!
    I still, more than 6 months on, really have no idea of most of the features. The 5 manuals I have are detailed but difficult to understand.

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