Modern cars know frightening details about us. What about classics?
Mozilla, the San Francisco-based internet foundation and software company responsible for the Firefox browser, considers itself something of a public-minded curator of online issues, including privacy. In 2017, it started a buyer’s guide called *Privacy Not Included (the asterisk is theirs), “a guide about the privacy and security of connected toys, gadgets, and smart home products.”
Since then Mozilla has reviewed dozens of products.
But nothing, it says, sucks up your private data like automobiles.
“Nowadays,” Mozilla found, “our cars are anything but a private space—they are full blown data collection nightmares on wheels.”
Do tell, Mozilla.
“New Mozilla research has revealed that popular global car brands—like Chevrolet, Nissan, Toyota, Kia, Audi, Jeep, Honda, Volkswagen, and more—are collecting your deeply personal data, like your genetic information and sexual activity.” Woe to the poor spy sitting in a laboratory somewhere, collecting my “sexual activity” data. He’s likely working crossword puzzles, trying not to fall off his stool from boredom.
“This invasive harvesting of information,” Mozilla continues, “is collected via a web of sensors, microphones, cameras, and the phones, apps, and connected services you use in your vehicle. All 25 car brands we researched earned our *Privacy Not Included warning label—making cars the official worst category of products for privacy that we have ever reviewed.”
Mozilla has similar reviews of the other car companies, evidently based on the companies’ printed privacy policies, rather than any inside information or examples of how they misuse the data they glean.
Seriously, I should be more upset about this than I am, but I’ve always figured my cars and trucks know more about me than anyone. I just never suspected anyone else would be interested.
Some examples of how my cars knew me better than I knew myself:
My Plymouth Roadrunner: Hurst four-speed, a 400-cubic-inch four-barrel with secondaries so big, and thirsty, you could drop a half-dollar down them. A big toolbox in the trunk, and I needed it, plus Hot Rod magazines with ads circled. The car knew before I did that my drag racing career was doomed; I figured it out after roasting exactly two B&M Racing clutches. “Buy an automatic,” it was trying to tell me.
My Chevrolet Corvette: I became a Corvette owner, hook, line and sinker, and branded jacket. I still think the view of the left front fender from the driver’s seat is the sexiest thing in the automotive world, and I don’t care who (hear that, Nissan?) knows it. Just look at any Corvette. It knows it looks good!
My Ford Ranchero: Usually with a dirt bike in the back and a stack of Dirt Bike magazines on the seat. I was going to be a professional motocross rider, lacking only one thing: Talent. I was good at falling off, not much else. There were more traces of blood inside the Ranchero than in a Law & Order episode. Medical data is valuable, I hear.
My Pontiac Trans Am: Yes, it was 1977, and I bought it right before Smokey and the Bandit hit theaters. It had a 23-channel CB radio. I had big sunglasses and wore a lot of black. Girlfriend Brenda sort of favored Sally Field but it was, I swear, just a coincidence.
My Datsun 240Z: I became a Man Of The World with my first foreign car, which is what we called them then. Joined the club, went autocrossing, was as good at that as I was motocross, but I fell down less. The Datsun could tell I was going places, maybe even growing up a little bit.
My Dodge Power Wagon: This was my John Denver, Rocky Mountain High, pearl snap-button shirts and Timberlands phase, difficult when you live in Louisiana, where the highest point is Driskill Mountain, 535 feet above sea level. For a story, I hiked to the top. Some readers took the story seriously. “You call that a hike? I climbed Mount Airy!” Good for you.
My wife’s Mini Cooper: She died from a stroke, and it was a month before I could bring myself to sit in her car. Two hairbrushes, a dozen hairbands that looked as though they were shot into every corner. An empty latte from Starbucks in the cupholder. A photo of Dude, her dog. A George Strait CD in the player. A birthday card for me, unsigned. I miss her.
Yeah. Our old cars know us better than anybody. And they keep it to themselves.