OnStar Stirs up Further Controversy

OnStar, a technology exclusively found in GM vehicles, was released in America a few years ago. It helped bring GPS, rear view cameras and hands free calling capabilities all bundled together. However, what they didn’t advertise as doing was tracking their users. On top of that, they didn’t tell anyone they would then proceed to sell that information to other companies; even after you cancelled your contract with them.

Don’t worry though, they had to comply with US law to do this, which means letting you know; through changing the small print in their privacy policy. It revealed the extent of their sharing and the fact that even if you cancel your contract – presumably because they were sharing your data and selling it on – that the two-way cellular link to OnStar would continue to operate, still sending them data.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer says that, “OnStar is attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory.” Understandably, users are just as unhappy.

The Detroit news further quoted Schumer saying, “By tracking drivers even after they’ve canceled their service, OnStar is attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory. I urge OnStar to abandon this policy and for FTC to immediately launch a full investigation to determine whether the company’s actions constitute an unfair trade practice.”

Unsurprisingly, this outcome and focus has caused GM to back pedal on their original plans. They released this press release stating that they’d rescinded the original Terms and Conditions:

“OnStar announced today it is reversing its proposed Terms and Conditions policy changes and will not keep a data connection to customers’ vehicles after the OnStar service is canceled.

OnStar recently sent e-mails to customers telling them that effective Dec. 1, their service would change so that data from a customer vehicle would continue to be transmitted to OnStar after service was canceled – unless the customer asked for it to be shut off.

“We realize that our proposed amendments did not satisfy our subscribers,” OnStar President Linda Marshall said. “This is why we are leaving the decision in our customers’ hands. We listened, we responded and we hope to maintain the trust of our more than 6 million customers.”

If OnStar ever offers the option of a data connection after cancellation, it would only be when a customer opted-in, Marshall said. And then OnStar would honor customers’ preferences about how data from that connection is treated.

Maintaining the data connection would have allowed OnStar to provide former customers with urgent information about natural disasters and recalls affecting their vehicles even after canceling their service. It also would have helped in planning future services.”

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