NY Sen. Schumer accuses OnStar of invading privacy

Sep 25, 2011 By MICHAEL GORMLEY , Associated Press
The General Motors OnStar command center is shown in Detroit, in this Feb. 6, 2006 file photo. The OnStar automobile communication service maintains its two-way connection with a customer even after the service is discontinued and reserves the right to sell data from that connection. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York calls that a blatant invasion of privacy and is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. Schumer is announcing the effort Sunday Sept. 25, 2011 by releasing a letter to the Federal Trade Commission seeking an investigation. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

(AP) -- The OnStar automobile communication service used by 6 million Americans maintains its two-way connection with a customer even after the service is discontinued, while reserving the right to sell data from that connection.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York says that's a blatant invasion of privacy and is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. But OnStar says former customers can stop the two-way transmission, and no driving data of customers has been shared or sold.

"OnStar is attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory," said Schumer, a Democrat. "I urge OnStar to abandon this policy."

But the General Motors Corp. OnStar service says customers are thoroughly informed of the new practice. If a customer says he or she doesn't want to have data collected after service is ended, OnStar disconnects the tracking.

And although OnStar reserves the right to share or sell data on customers' speed, location, use of seat belts and other practices, a spokesman says it hasn't done so and doesn't plan to.

"We apologize for creating any confusion about our terms and conditions," said Joanne Finnor, vice president of subscriber services. "We want to make sure we are as clear with our customers as possible, but it's apparent that we have failed to do this. ... We will continue to be open to their suggestions and concerns."

A week ago, OnStar changed its policy and began continuing the connection for ex-customers unless they asked for it to be discontinued.

Finnor noted keeping the two-communication active for former customers could someday allow for emergency messages to be sent even to ex-customers about severe weather or evacuations. The open line could also allow OnStar to alert drivers about warranty information or recalls, she said.

Schumer said he isn't persuaded. He said customers shouldn't have to "opt out" of the tracking after they end service. He accuses OnStar of actively deceiving customers.

Schumer is announcing the effort Sunday by releasing a letter to the Federal Trade Commission seeking an investigation.

OnStar charges about $199 a year for basic service and $299 a year for service that includes navigation aid.

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User comments : 6

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dogbert
2.8 / 5 (5) Sep 25, 2011
Another reason to avoid automobiles equipped with OnStar systems.

Another reason is the ability of the OnStar system to slow or stop a moving vehicle.

And yes, tracking former customers is a blatant violation of privacy.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (3) Sep 25, 2011
OnStar is a wholly owned subsidiary of Government Motors

https://secure.wi...e_device
MorituriMax
not rated yet Sep 25, 2011
Yeah Onstar really cares where you go. Not. Of course, once I saw Shumers name, I ranked this as a non-issue.

You do realize of course that cell-phone companies know everything you do on your phone? And the big ISP's know every piece of data that goes from and to your computer over the internet?
frajo
5 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2011
Introducing an opt-out procedure instead of an opt-in procedure is exploitation of the unwitting part of the population.

Finnor noted keeping the two-communication active for former customers could someday allow for emergency messages to be sent even to ex-customers about severe weather or evacuations. The open line could also allow OnStar to alert drivers about warranty information or recalls, she said.
"Taking care" of citizens without first getting their consent proves that capitalism is doing what socialism is accused of.
Cave_Man
not rated yet Sep 26, 2011
Whoa! Time warp! We're back in 1984, AGAIN!!!!!
tpb
not rated yet Sep 26, 2011
I have a question, I believe the FCC requires 911 to work on all cell phones whether the user has an active contract or not.
Since the Onstar service is essentially a cell phone, is the cell phone in an Onstar equipped car also required to work with 911 regardless of contract status? If not, why doesn't the law/regulation apply?