You’ve heard the commercials, of live action calls of folks caught between a rock and a hard place only to reach up to press the “blue” button much like a “medic alert” of “I’ve fallen and cant get up” fame brings them help. All good stuff right, while not so fast say three Senators who have formally raised their concerns around an announcement by GM’s OnStar’s subsidiary that it will continue collecting data from customers’ cars even if they cancel their paid OnStar service.
In a letter to the company, Al Franken (is this guy still in congress, you have to be kidding me!) and Chris Coons another Democrat warned that “OnStar’s actions appear to violate basic principles of privacy and fairness.” On top of this Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) joined the fray in raising his own objections in a letter he has written to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting an investigation of OnStar’s privacy policies and actions. Schumer described OnStar’s new policy as “one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory”. Wow, this guy must not be an iPhone or Facebook user!
So why is OnStar collecting this data you ask after its paying customer has asked to separate themselves from the venerable purveyor of the blue button? Well it appears they hopes of creating a new revenue stream by collecting data from OnStar-equipped cars about their movements. As a complete data set, will be far more inclusive, therefore worth more as the more samples the greater value there is to the data.
As OnStar even went so far to announce this “run but you can hide” policy via e-mailed to subscribers that starting on December 1, it would continue collecting data from subscribers even after they canceled their service. In addition, “OnStar” also said it reserved the right to sell the aggregated and anonymized data it collected to third parties.
The senators also expressed solid skepticism around OnStar’s “anonymization” promise by pointing to the “broad body of research showing that it is extraordinarily difficult to successfully anonymize highly personal data like location.” This folks is where the problem, not only here however with everything we do as what technology giveth it also taketh. As with modern calculating power, it has become far easier to “unwind” anonymized (just ask Arron Barr). So what was one man’s noise, is another man’s data, as in this form I’m waxed in the past of my own professional employment in data triangulation as well as “cost” was the only real protector of privacy…