OnStar Customers Win, Privacy Policy Changes Reversed

September 27, 2011

Public outcry over the sensitive issue of privacy has resulted in a complete reversal of OnStar’s privacy policy change due to take effect December 1.

That, and the fact that one U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had called the previous plan “a brazen invasion of privacy” and said the Federal Trade Commission should investigate the policy to determine if it represented an unfair or deceptive trade practice.

What’s the flap all about? In a nutshell, OnStar recently sent an email to its 6 million customers telling them of a change in the Terms and Conditions of the OnStar service: Data from their vehicle would continue to be transmitted to OnStar after the service was cancelled, unless the customer specifically asked for it to be shut off.

The data transmitted includes the driver’s location, speed, and other factors which could conceivably be sold to or shared with other parties.

That caused all kinds of uproar, as it should. While ostensibly, and logically, leaving the data transmitting to OnStar could potentially allow for some positive benefits, such as OnStar being able to give consumers information about vehicle recalls and natural disasters, the trade-off apparently isn’t worth it to consumers.

In a press release, OnStar President Linda Marshall said, “We realize that our proposed amendments did not satisfy our subscribers. That is why we are leaving the decision in our customers’ hands. We listened, we responded and we hope to maintain the trust of our more than six million customers.”

Elaborating on the reversal, OnStar said that if it ever offered an option for data collection after the subscriber cancels the service, it would only be after the customer opts in. Even then, OnStar was careful to affirm, OnStar would adhere to the preferences the customer indicates about how such data could be treated (read: shared).

So, the people have spoken. Good thing OnStar knows how to listen.


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