Survey says EU citizens back car connectivity but wary of privacy impact

Out-Law News | 09 Dec 2014 | 4:50 pm | 1 min. read

Just over half of EU citizens would be willing to drive an internet-connected vehicle, but for most of them this would be conditional on data anonymity or being able to decide when to be connected, a new survey has indicated.

According to the European Commission's 'Eurobarometer' survey on transport quality (137-page / 3.90 MB PDF), 51% of respondents said they would be willing to have a connected vehicle, while 38% said their acceptance would be subject to data anonymity or the ability to opt in to data connection services.

Overall, respondents in Sweden (75%) and Denmark (72%) were the most likely to agree to have their vehicle connected, either conditionally or unconditionally, “and this was the case for at least half of all respondents in 16 EU member states,” the survey said.

Munich-based technology law expert Stephan Appt of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: “The survey indicated a lot of mixed feelings about car connectivity which could be due to privacy concerns.”

Appt said: “This is arguably another reason why stakeholders within the automotive industry should consider the issues involved and promote privacy. Observing privacy requirements is not only important in avoiding potential challenges from data protection authorities, but also from a business case perspective.”

Gaining consumers’ trust is “an increasingly important factor”, Appt said. “This can be achieved by demonstrating transparency and establishing by design adequate technical and organisational measures to avoid data breaches, which are of course concepts that are already requirements from a legal perspective.”

'Connected cars' is a term used to refer to vehicles that are fitted with communications technology and which allow real-time information to be transmitted between information providers powering information, entertainment and driver assistance features and those vehicles or even between vehicles themselves over communication networks.

Two US-based organisations that represent some of the world’s biggest car manufacturers said last month that they had reached agreement on privacy standards for securing the large amounts of data generated by computers and tracking systems used in vehicles.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automakers jointly unveiled a set of privacy protection ‘principles’ (14-page / 608 KB PDF) that commit car manufacturers to “take certain steps to protect the personal data generated by their vehicles” and instil data privacy confidence for motorists.