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Securing the connected car

Privacy and security are on everyone’s mind when it comes to the connected car: all of the industry players, consumers and regulatory organizations.

Starting with data privacy, there is a hornet’s nest of requirements depending upon geography. In the U.S., usage-based insurance solutions are a popular feature to help reduce insurance costs for good driving behavior. In Europe they are viewed as an invasion of privacy. In Brazil and Russia, tracking devices are required on cars by all insurance companies due to the high rate of car theft, again a no-go in Europe due to privacy. Yet in China, consumers are very willing to give away personal data in return for more service choices. It varies greatly from region to region, in that different regions have different market needs and different levels of consumer perception as to what is an acceptable level of privacy reduction in return for security.

So what’s a solution that works? Is it being able to opt out or get something in return for sharing your data? To have an informed reaction to the options in front of them, market education must play a role for end-consumers to understand what information might be used and why.

Data privacy is a real catch 22. Consider the following scenarios:

  • The market is stirring over data privacy in the car. But does the consumer really understand what they are getting upset about or is the media causing the stir?
  • One such concern is that OEMs and MNOs will know where I’m driving. If you have a smartphone with you the MNOs already know.
  • Another stated concern is that the data I send to/from my car might not be secure. If you’re using your smartphone to tether to the car, why is this any different than what you do outside of your car?
  • Consumers have expressed a desire for predictive services. To receive an alert that the car needs service and possibly schedule an appointment, for example. Without sharing data that isn’t possible.
  • Consumers want a personal, not a one-size-fits all, experience. For example, receiving location-specific offers based on their route of travel. Without sharing data this also isn’t possible.
  • Sharing generic roadway information – potholes for example – could help to alert and prioritize road work, resulting in a better driving experience.

These are just a few very basic scenarios to highlight how market education could help calm many of the concerns related to data privacy and the benefits of sharing. Having digital choice requires forfeiting some privacy – consider the information people share on the Internet.

Today, OEMs receive generic data but in a way that it could never be attributed to any one car or driver. It is delivered in very short bursts and then summarized to look for trends. What is the requirement or tolerance level for increased information sharing in return of improved services?

Cybersecurity is not so easy and is a topic that has yet to reach its full capacity of concern in the market. I Am the Calvary bills itself as a grassroots organization that tests computer security issues intersecting public safety and human life. In 2014, it published an open letter to the automotive OEMs regarding the opportunities to misuse functionality within the connected car and urged them to look toward more cybersecurity solutions. Consider this a warning from the world of hackers. Also in 2014, General Motors was the first OEM to name a cybersecurity head, showing the level of commitment from the automotive OEMs to stay on top of this import topic.

All of this becomes even more disturbing in the world of V2V and V2I – scenarios that don’t involve a human. They are about cars and infrastructure communicating to each other regarding an upcoming situation that will require their action. What if the information being communicated wasn’t coming from a trusted source? You can see where this could get very scary.

Who is responsible for privacy and security issues? The OEMs say “the buck stops here,” and that they are ultimately responsible for the safety and security not only of the passengers in their cars, but also of their data. That doesn’t mean cross-industry alliances aren’t important to solve these issues, just that they believe they are the ones who shoulder the final responsibility on this topic.

Want to learn more about these topics? Join RCR’s connected car industry landscape webinar on Jan. 28 to hear from industry experts. The link to register is here. Also on that day, a new featured report on this topic will be available for download at no charge.

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Claudia Bacco, Managing Director – EMEA for RCR Wireless News, has spent her entire career in telecom, IT and security. Having experience as an operator, software and hardware vendor and as a well-known industry analyst, she has many opinions on the market. She’ll be sharing those opinions along with ongoing trend analysis for RCR Wireless News.

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