Updated with OnStar comment after the cut.
"What's changed [is that if] you want to cancel your OnStar service, we are going to maintain a two-way connection to your vehicle unless the customer says otherwise" Denison told Wired, billing the decision as a way to make reconnections "easier" down the line. Customers leaving the service will be able to opt-out of the tracking, though they will need to actively communicate that request to OnStar (
Some of OnStar's potential applications for the data do, on the surface, seem reasonable. The company has suggested that crowd-aggregated location and speed data could be used by city planners to better organize their road networks, monitoring peak hour traffic and improving layouts and maintenance schedules to minimize delays.
However, the scope of OnStar's new possibilities with user data has been highlighted, with forensic scientist Jonathan Zdziarski pointing out that a new addition to the policy allows the company "to collect any data for any purpose." OnStar makes clear it can sell personalized data with GM, its affiliates, dealers, "joint marketing" third parties and others, while anonymized data ("including location, speed, and safety belt usage") can be shared or sold to third parties "for any purpose."
“OnStar has and always will give our customers the choice in how we use their data. We’ve also been very open with our customers about changes in services and privacy terms.
“Under our new Terms and Conditions, when a customer cancels service, we have informed customers that OnStar will maintain a two-way connection to their vehicle unless they ask us not to do so. In the future, this connection may provide us with the capability to alert vehicle occupants about severe weather conditions such as tornado warnings or mandatory evacuations. Another benefit for keeping this connection “open” could be to provide vehicle owners with any updated warranty data or recall issues.
“Of course, if the customer requests us to turn off the two-way connection, we will do as we have always done, and that is honor customers’ requests.
“Our guiding practices regarding sharing our subscribers’ personal information have not changed. We are always very specific about with whom we share customers’ personal information, and how they will use it. We have never sold any personally identifiable information to any third party.
“Keeping the two-way connection open will also allow OnStar to capture general vehicle information that could be used in future product development.
“We apologize for creating any confusion about our Terms and Conditions. We want to make sure we are as clear with our customers as possible, but it’s apparent that we have failed to do this. As always, we are listening to our subscribers’ feedback and we will continue to be open to their suggestions and concerns.”