GM’s OnStar Tracking Should Be Investigated, Senator Says

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission should investigate General Motors Co.’s OnStar vehicle navigation system over collecting data from customers who have canceled the service, a U.S. senator said.

OnStar told its subscribers in an e-mail last week that it may continue collecting information from vehicles that no longer use the service. Customers who cancel the service after Dec. 1 must contact OnStar to stop the company from gathering data under the revised policy, according to the e-mail.

The FTC should investigate the OnStar policy to determine if it represents an unfair or deceptive trade practice, Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, wrote to the agency’s chairman Jon Leibowitz in a letter today. Schumer called on OnStar to abandon the changes in a separate letter to the GM unit.

“By tracking drivers even after they’ve canceled their service, OnStar is attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory,” Schumer said in a news release.

The senator sent a separate letter to OnStar asking it to reconsider its customer-data policy change.

Under its revised policy, OnStar may sell or share “anonymized” data, including a vehicle’s location, speed and safety-belt usage to third parties “for any purpose,” the GM unit said in a privacy statement posted on its website. Anonymized data doesn’t identify an individual customer or a customer’s vehicle, OnStar said.

Selected Third Parties

OnStar shares “selected” information with third parties including law enforcement agencies, wireless-service providers and data-management companies, the notice states.

The FTC has received Schumer’s letter and “can neither confirm nor deny an investigation,” agency spokesman Claudia Farrell said in an interview. The agency “takes privacy issues very seriously,” she said.

OnStar spokesman Adam Denison said the company is “working directly with Senator Schumer” and declined to comment on the letter.

Democratic senators Al Franken of Minnesota and Christopher Coons of Delaware in a Sept. 21 letter to OnStar said the company’s customer-data policy appears to “violate basic principles of privacy and fairness.” The senators asked OnStar whether it had experienced any leaks of customer information and what it does to protect that data.

OnStar delivers navigation and security features such as emergency assistance to GM cars and other vehicles using the global-positioning system. The service has more than 6 million customers in the U.S., Canada and China, according to the company’s website.

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