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    Update on OnStar Location Privacy Questions

    Last week, Wired reported on a change to the OnStar privacy policy, noting: “Navigation-and-emergency-services company OnStar is notifying its six million account holders that it will keep a complete accounting of the speed and location of OnStar-equipped vehicles, even for drivers who discontinue monthly service.” OnStar has released a YouTube video clarifying its policy. Now, there are reports that federal legislators are criticizing OnStar’s changes. First, the Associated Press reports that N.Y. Sen. Charles Schumer (D) is criticizing the move on privacy grounds:

    The OnStar automobile communication service used by 6 million Americans maintains its two-way connection with a customer even after the service is discontinued, while reserving the right to sell data from that connection.

    U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York says that’s a blatant invasion of privacy and is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.  [...]

    But the General Motors Corp. OnStar service says customers are thoroughly informed of the new practice. If a customer says he or she doesn’t want to have data collected after service is ended, OnStar disconnects the tracking.

    And although OnStar reserves the right to share or sell data on customers’ speed, location, use of seat belts and other practices, a spokesman says it hasn’t done so and doesn’t plan to. [...]

    Schumer said he isn’t persuaded. He said customers shouldn’t have to “opt out” of the tracking after they end service. He accuses OnStar of actively deceiving customers.

    Schumer is announcing the effort Sunday by releasing a letter to the Federal Trade Commission seeking an investigation.

    And the Hill reports that Democratic Sens. Al Franken (Minn.) and Chris Coons (Del.) also urged OnStar against this new privacy policy.

    “In a nutshell, OnStar is telling its current and former customers that it can track their location anywhere, anytime — even if they cancel their subscriptions — and then give or sell that information to anyone as long as OnStar deems it safe to do so,” the senators wrote in a letter to Linda Marshall, the CEO of OnStar.

    “OnStar’s actions appear to violate basic principles of privacy and fairness for OnStar’s approximately six million customers — especially for those customers who have already ended their relationships with your company.” [...]

    The senators requested answers to a series of questions, including whether OnStar has suffered a breach of its customers’ data and how it plans to use the location data.

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