Four in five drivers don’t remove their personal information before selling their car, a new survey from Which? reveals. Between December 2019 and February 2020, the consumer advisory group surveyed more than 14,000 individuals who had sold their car in the previous two years, exposing concerning behavior.
More than 50% of drivers admit to having synced their smart phones to their cars, allowing the transfer of their contact list, text messages and Wi-Fi information to the onboard system. While this alone is not enough to raise an alarm, most drivers ignore instructions on how to delete their data or perform a factory reset before selling their car.
This implies that drivers are freely handing over sensitive information, including their phonebooks, home addresses and home Wi-Fi, to complete strangers. If the system is not properly wiped before selling your vehicle, the new owner can easily view this information.
Modern cars even provide apps that can be installed on the owner’s phone. These apps allow drivers to track the car’s location, activate the lights or horn, lock and unlock the doors, and even stop the engine.
The survey found that, 1,893 car owners who had sold a car in the previous two years also downloaded the associated app. However, 50% failed to unpair or delete the associated app, creating new possibilities for stalking and other crimes.
“If cars are not treated the same as a smartphone, tablet or other connected devices when it comes to data security, motorists risk giving away a treasure trove of information about themselves when they decide to sell their car,” said Harry Rose, editor of Which? Magazine. “Manufacturers must do much more to prioritise customers’ personal privacy so that drivers fully understand how much data their vehicle could be harbouring and how to delete this information in order to eradicate these risks.”
If you are thinking of selling or buying a second-hand car, do some homework. As a seller, you should always delete any personal information that could be stored in the vehicle’s infotainment system. If you are also using a dedicated app, unpair and delete the software from your smartphone. If you are browsing the market for a used car, ask for evidence that any previous data was wiped and the access rights were revoked.