Privacy not included: Nissan cars tracking drivers’ intimate lives

Research by the Mozilla Foundation, covering 173 gadgets, apps, and cars, reveals that digital privacy is not the case in 2023.

The Foundation’s research team, named *Privacy Not Included, has been conducting privacy research since 2017. Compared to the results of previous years, the overall security of digital products increased, with many using encryption and providing automatic software updates.

Sadly, however, privacy is off the table for many products, and 2023 has been the worst of years in terms of data protection.

“Many companies now view their hardware or software as a means to an end – collecting that coveted personal data for targeted advertising and training AI,” reads the report.

Among the worst for privacy that researchers identified include: smart watches for kids (Gizmo Watch and Watch Kids 4 Pro), BetterHelp health app, Amazon’s Echo studio, and Nissan cars.

A car that knows everything

The Japanese car manufacturer has become everyone’s worst privacy nightmare. It’s gathering vast amounts of personal data, including the most private and sensitive information.

In its privacy policy notice, Nissan’s US branch writes that the company collects and discloses – for business purposes, naturally – the client’s “religious or philosophical beliefs, sexual orientation, sexual activity, precise geolocation, health diagnosis data, and genetic information.”

On top of collecting intimate personal details, the car manufacturer leaves itself the right to disclose even more sensitive information to others for targeted marketing purposes.

Nissan Privacy Policy
Source: Nissan USA Privacy Policy

This includes "inferences drawn from any personal data collected to create a profile about a consumer reflecting the consumer’s preferences, characteristics, psychological trends, predispositions, behavior, attitudes, intelligence, abilities, and aptitudes." So, the company can analyze users’ personal data and potentially infer users' behavior and even their levels of intelligence.

Mozilla’s researchers state that there’s a high probability that other car companies are also collecting, sharing, and selling similar user data. However, apart from the South Korean car manufacturer Kia, which discloses that they collect data about their client’s “sex life” in their privacy policy, other manufacturers are not as precise.

Nissan's spokesperson told Cybernews that its privacy policy is written as broadly as possible to comply with federal and state laws, and the company does not knowingly collect or disclose consumer information on sexual activity or sexual orientation. "Some state laws require us to account for inadvertent data collection or information that could be inferred from other data, such as geolocation," the spokesperson stated.

"Nissan takes privacy and data protection for our consumers and employees very seriously. When we do collect or share personal data, we comply with all applicable laws and provide the utmost transparency. Nissan North America’s Privacy Policy incorporates a broad definition of Personal Information and Sensitive Personal Information, as expressly listed in the growing patchwork of evolving state privacy laws in the US, and is inclusive of types of data it may receive through incidental means.”

Mozilla’s research in September revealed that, in total, 25 car brands are extensively gathering user data, and 84% of them are using it for targeted marketing and business purposes. At the beginning of the year, Nissan disclosed a data breach that affected close to 18,000 of the company’s clients. According to the notice that Nissan sent to affected customers, user data was leaked via a third-party vendor that was providing software development services to the automaker.

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