How to protect the personal data in your car

The National Automobile Dealers Association, and data privacy experts, say it’s up to consumers to delete the personal information in their cars.

Coraetta Oliver uses Bluetooth to keep her hands on the steering wheel while talking on the phone. But, she makes sure to delete all the phone numbers stored in her car.

“As far as storing it, I avoid that at all cost because if my vehicle, by chance is stolen, then all of my personal information is there,” Oliver told the ABC 33/40 News iTeam. “Numbers I’ve called. Where I’ve been. And that, to me, is lack of safety there.”

It’s up to consumers to delete their personal data from their cars

Cars come with equipment and features that rely on personal data to support safety, performance and convenience.

The National Automobile Dealers Association, and data privacy experts, say it’s up to consumers to delete the personal information in their cars.

Lauren Smith is the policy counsel for the Future of Privacy Forum—a non-profit that advances principled data practices.

“Think what could happen if you sold a used car, and didn’t delete any information,” Smith said. “And it had your home address in the GPS, and your garage door programmed into the buttons. That could give someone access to your actual home.”

Drivers Way is a used car dealership. Their cars come from all over the country. Technician John Albritton says most of the cars they get still have the previous owner’s personal data stored in them.

“In the wrong hands, it’s phone numbers and addresses.” Lots of stuff you don’t want people to have.”

Check this out: The previous owner of one SUV we looked at left addresses in the navigation system that included their child’s elementary school. And the former owner of another SUV left addresses that included a storage facility, golf course, restaurant and hotel.

Albritton, and his team make it a point to delete personal data from cars before they sell them. But there’s no national requirement to do that.

How to delete personal data in your car

Check the owner’s manual to determine how to eliminate the code from your garage door opener.

It usually goes something like this:

“To delete all the stored info here, you just hold these two buttons (for the garage door) here for 20 seconds,” Albritton said.

To eliminate stored addresses from your navigation system, scroll through to find the “clear” button and follow the directions on the screen. Your owner’s manual has the specific details.

“You’ve got this clear all down here,” Albritton said. You just push that and those all go away.”

And you can eliminate stored phone numbers, by pushing just a few buttons in the Bluetooth section of your car’s display screen.

Coretta Oliver has already made that decision to keep herself safe.

“If you have one option and can make sure it stops with you, stop it right there,” Oliver said. “Make sure it doesn’t go anywhere else.”

The steps you take to delete your personal information can vary from car to car.

Some cars have just one button that allows you to delete your personal data.

That makes it very easy.

Be sure to delete your data in rental cars

One more thing. It’s very important to delete personal data like addresses and phone numbers in rental cars.

That’s especially important if you’re visiting a relative’s home or calling your spouse or kids using Bluetooth. That information is stored.

Take a few minutes to delete all that before you return your car.

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