Why you absolutely must erase personal data before selling your car

Infotainment screens in new cars connect to smartphones of users to provide quick, easy and exhaustive options which range from navigation to personal
File photo of an infotainment screen being used as a navigation option. (Image used for representational purpose)
File photo of an infotainment screen being used as a navigation option. (Image used for representational purpose)

With more and more cars on roads the world over coming with advanced technology-based features, the transfer of user data to physical drives and virtual clouds are becoming a common occurrence. Whether it is to connect a smartphone for navigation or to read emails or even connect for calling and messaging options, the operating system of an infotainment system can often house a 'gold mine' of personal information that may be misused if and when the car is either stolen or sold off. This makes erasing such data and connections absolutely imperative, at least before a willing act of selling/disposing a vehicle.

According to a recent survey involving 14,000 car owners in the UK, it was found that four in every five had admitted to not erasing their private data before handing the car over a new owner. The survey noted that the primary owners who did not consider erasing memory banks of the infotainment systems may have potentially provided the next owner with his or her private details such as phonebook contacts, WiFi passwords and home addresses. Smartphones connected using both Bluetooth as well as USB cables often require such details to be entered which can be of valuable help while on the move but can also be quite valuable to next owners or third-party drivers who may have nefarious intentions.

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Cyber security experts around the world are increasingly asking people to be aware about erasing personal information when sharing a car or if selling it off. Incidents of hackers accessing personal images, videos and contact details have often been reported from vehicles and while manufacturers are increasingly stepping up to address the issue, the final onus often falls on the primary owner of the vehicle to protect his or her data.

This is also true in India where a number of passenger vehicles even in the non-luxury segments come with a plethora of features that allow smartphones to connect with in-dash infotainment systems. Newer players in the market allow for these systems to even make use of home WiFi networks for heavy-duty net activities like streaming on Youtube. The importance of keeping personal information secure, therefore, is fast becoming as important here as anywhere else in the world.

First Published Date: 22 Jun 2020, 15:48 PM IST

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