If you read the article about the ‘data hunger’ of connected cars (FD, 2 April), it is clear that cars are probably the next battleground in the debate on the collection and use of personal data. Most of us have no idea what data is collected by our cars and for what purpose. Almost everything you do in your vehicle today is monitored: where you’ve been driving, which radio station you’ve been listening to along the way. Your car could even record all phone calls, to whom and for how long you’ve been talking. And when you sell your car, all this information will still be available to the manufacturer. So far, so Orwellian. But the smart car revolution has many advantages.

Take electric vehicles. Many of our major corporate customers would like to switch to the latest emission-free technology with their petrol and diesel vehicles. But their fleet is made up of thousands of vehicles across several countries. And for people who usually make short journeys and people who have to travel long distances every day, there is a different balance.

Smart cars can help speed up the transition by measuring how often each vehicle is used in the fleet, how far it is driven on average and at what altitude, even the climate in which the cars are driving (because the climate strongly influences the range of electric cars). This data can then be used to draw up a smart transition plan for the fleet. Cars’ data can also be used to predict maintenance problems and even tackle congestion problems by providing governments with more accurate information. In our view, it is not so much a question of collecting data as such, but rather of who manages the data and how drivers can be helped to make informed decisions about exactly what data they share and with whom. What must be done to achieve this?

First of all, everyone in the industry must make it much easier for drivers to understand in advance what data is being collected and for what purpose. It is madness that, in times of the General Data Protection Regulation, your car can collect virtually all the data it wants. Drivers need to be much better able to give informed consent or not to collect data from their vehicles. That does not have to be difficult. After all, every time you download an app, you have the choice whether or not to agree that the data of the app is shared with third parties.

Secondly, the data of these smart vehicles must not end up in a black box that is controlled solely by the vehicle manufacturer. It would be better if the data were instead sent to an intermediary platform, a ‘neutral server’. These servers would then be operated and financed not by the manufacturers but by an independent party. In addition, they only provide aggregated data insights, thus protecting the privacy of individual drivers. Using a neutral server, for example at a technological party outside the traditional automotive sector, motorists would be able to decide for themselves what data they want to share and with whom, such as the manufacturer, the maintenance engineer or another service provider.

In a neutral server, individual data can be combined anonymously and thus also serve a social interest. Local authorities could, for example, use car data to find out how to tackle the congestion problem in their cities or how to make so-called ‘black spots’ safer. The condition is that the neutral server is independent, supervised and guarantees everyone’s privacy.

Politicians and administrators must be better informed about data and privacy issues. Almost all companies become technology companies in one way or another. This means incorporating data and privacy considerations into our decision-making processes, just as we take health and safety into account when we build a new plant. Without rapid action by all those involved in the automotive sector: manufacturers, leasing companies, regulators and motorists, we run the risk of moving towards the next major car scandal, with smart cars that are seen as too smart for their own good. That would be at the expense of a cleaner, safer and less congested mobility system.

Reaction article 1

Car manufacturers do not want to limit their data collection

Car manufacturers and importers react negatively to a proposal from LeasePlan, one of the largest car leasing companies in the world, to restrict the collection of personal data. “We see no direct added value,” says Peugeot Netherlands. BMW doesn’t need it either. Motoring Association ANWB and industry association Bovag are enthusiastic.

Restrain data hunger
“In times of the General Data Protection Regulation, it is insane for your car to be able to collect practically all the data it wants.” • Michel Alsemgeest, chief digital officer LeasePlan

LeasePlan launched a proposal in the FD last Friday to curb manufacturers’ data hunger. That is much larger than car owners know, according to research from the University of Amsterdam. With more and more cars, the manufacturer looks at the driver. Not only engine performance is tracked, driving behavior is also recorded. Because the data is linked to the owner, it is ‘personal data’.

Collecting ‘madness’ personal data

The Dutch Data Protection Authority calls the protection of this data a ‘spearhead’ for this year. Market forces are also being investigated. Both Economic Affairs and the European Commission are looking into whether car manufacturers are not getting too much power over other service providers. Michel Alsemgeest, chief digital officer of LeasePlan, calls it ‘madness’ that a modern car can ‘virtually collect all the data it wants’. He mainly sees the danger of new abuses. After diesel gate, in which CO₂ emission tests were falsified, the ‘smart’ car can also become controversial.

“Next big car scandal”
“Without quick action,” he writes, “we run the risk of heading for the next big car scandal, with smart cars that are seen as too smart for their own good.” That is why LeasePlan argues for a radically different system. The data flow between the car and the manufacturer must be redirected. Data may not end up in ‘a black box that is controlled exclusively by the vehicle manufacturer’. LeasePlan itself is also a data player. It offers its customers a ‘connected car’ system, which tracks routes and driving style.

Peugeot: “we own the data”
“We own the data and are therefore in favor of an agreement between the brand and our customers about what might happen to the usage data.” • Ellis Blase, spokesperson Peugeot Netherlands. The lease company, which has 1.8 million cars worldwide, wants to send the data via a ‘neutral server’. This can be managed by ‘a technology party outside the traditional car sector’. Here the motorist can indicate his wishes: which data is collected, and which parties are allowed to do something with it. Peugeot sees no need. “We manage our data in accordance with legal obligations,” said spokesperson Ellis Blase. The car manufacturer is already working on better agreements with customers, such as “an agreement between the brand and our customers about what could be done with the user data.” Peugeot does emphasize that the manufacturer is ‘the owner of the data’.

BMW: customer is well informed
“We agree with LeasePlan that the data does not of course go to the manufacturer, but should also be able to go to other parties, provided that the motorist / owner explicitly chooses to do so” , Bertho Eckhardt, chairman Bovag

BMW believes it is already informing its customers about the data collection. In addition, the BMW driver can indicate which ‘third parties’ may use the data. When asked if BMW sees nothing in the LeasePlan proposal, spokesperson Andrew Mason says: “You could put it that way.”

“Power from manufacturers too large”
“The idea of LeasePlan deserves sympathy, because at least it is recognized that there is a serious problem, for which the General Data Protection Regulation offers an insufficient answer”, Tom Engers, professor of ‘legal knowledge management’ UvA

Bovag, the association of garages and other service providers, fully supports the proposal. Chairman Bertho Eckhardt calls it ‘not obvious’ that car data goes to the manufacturer. It must also go to other parties, he says, “provided that the driver or owner explicitly chooses.” Members of Bovag also want access to the data themselves. The association is already working with European sister associations on a ‘neutral’ server. She believes that “the power of manufacturers is becoming too great.”

‘Ideaalplaatje ANWB’

“It fits the ideal picture for the ANWB who wants to be an on-board application platform in the car in the longer term.”, Spokesperson Ad Vonk, ANWB

The ANWB drivers’ association is also enthusiastic. The LeasePlan proposal ‘fits in with the ideal picture’, says spokesperson Ad Vonk. The ANWB wants the car owner to be able to indicate ‘via the dashboard’ ‘which parties get access to certain data, and for what purpose’. The ANWB has its own system for monitoring driving behaviour. Members can install this in order to get a cheaper car insurance policy. Tom Engers, professor of ‘legal knowledge management’ at the University of Amsterdam, has ‘sympathy’ for the idea of LeasePlan. He doubts whether ‘people can reasonably be asked’ to assess the usefulness of all kinds of data. And the experience of app users will also deter ‘data refusers’, he thinks: that usually means that a product cannot be used.

Original article May 5, 2019 from the Financiale Dagblad: https://fd.nl/ondernemen/1299447/autofabrikanten-voelen-er-niets-voor-om-hun-dataverzameling-te-beperken

Reaction article 2

Smart cars and their creators need to be on data diet
Modern cars exhibit disproportionate data hunger. Last Friday (FD, 3 May), LeasePlan proposed two solutions. For example, motorists should be able to indicate exactly whether they want to share their data, and if so, with whom and for what purpose. The question is whether this is feasible.

Can people be asked to form an opinion about the proportionality of such requests? Data often have great commercial value and data objectors may face repercussions. Many app users therefore accept that, for example, their location and contacts are shared in order to make use of a simple advisory service. It would be better if the car sector itself were to come up with clear criteria for “acceptable data behaviour.

LeasePlan also proposes to send data to a ‘neutral server’, which is operated and financed by an independent party. Only aggregated data insights should be produced on the basis of the data, thus protecting the privacy of individual drivers. LeasePlan’s idea deserves sympathy, because at least it recognises that there is a serious problem and that the car industry should be responsible for solving it. However, the core of the problem is not only in the infrastructure used to collect, share, store and analyse data. Of course, infrastructural solutions are needed that enable regulated access to data and only allow clearly agreed data processing.

The real problem is that there are no clear criteria yet to determine whether or not to use undesirable substances. data processing. The jurisprudence could provide clarity. It would be better if the sector itself were to enter into the social debate and arrive at clear criteria for acceptable behaviour. The fact that individual consent has been given does not automatically mean that something is also socially desirable. Whether the criteria are applied by the data processors themselves, by an independent regulator or the government is a social choice. In view of the major commercial interests involved, whether the parties will actually adhere to the criteria will then depend on supervision and enforcement. The car industry, whether it likes it or not, must be forced to go on a data diet.

Tom van Engers is a professor of legal knowledge management at University of Amsterdam.

Original article May 6, 2019 from the Financiale Dagblad: https://fd.nl/opinie/1299511/slimme-autos-en-hun-makers-moeten-op-datadieet

Follow LeasePlan on social media

What’s next?