I travel a lot and frequently rent cars in cities all over the country. Those of you who know me, (and my husband and children will attest), know that I will not ask for directions. I am definitely more like a man than a woman when it comes to refusing to stop and ask for directions.
But I also refused to download Waze ever since it required that you basically give up your entire contacts list to them, and I don’t like to put my location based services on for Google maps. So what’s a stubborn girl to do when I am in a foreign city trying to get to my destination?
Most rental cars now give you the option for GPS (and as soon as you turn the car on, it says “Welcome, Linn Freedman”) and the ability to connect your cell phone to the blue tooth feature in the car. So the last time I rented a car, I looked at that GPS screen that knew who the driver was, and I knew that they were also tracking everywhere I drove. And when the screen said to connect my cell phone to the blue tooth, I knew that it was tracking every telephone call I made, down to the exact number I called. Is that something that the rental car agency really needed to have? What would they do with that information? So obviously, I didn’t use the GPS, nor did I connect my phone.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one concerned. Soon after my case of paranoia, the FTC issued a consumer alert about sharing data with your rental car. According to the FTC, precautions rental car customers can take to ensure the safety of their information when driving connected cars include:
- Drivers should avoid connecting their phones or electronic devices to an infotainment system for the sole purpose of charging. If your phone is low on battery, it’s better to use a cigarette lighter adapter to charge instead of the USB port, which may automatically transfer and store data. (Geez, I didn’t even catch that.)
- If you do connect a device to the infotainment system, it may display a screen to ask which types of information you want the system to know. In this case, be sure to only grant access to necessary information; for example, don’t share your contacts if you only want the system to play music.
- Delete all personal data from the infotainment system before returning the vehicle. Within the system’s settings, you should be able to locate a list of devices connected with the system and follow instructions to delete data. If the process proves tricky, the car’s manual or rental company should be able to give more information.
The FTC warning states that if drivers don’t delete this data before the car is returned, they risk the possibility of sharing it with future renters, rental car employees, or cybercriminals.
Just be aware of these facts and make an educated decision on what information you want to leave behind after you return that rental car.