By Jim Finkle
BOSTON (Reuters) - Two U.S.-based groups representing some of the world's biggest automakers have agreed on privacy standards for securing vast quantities of data generated by the dozens of tiny computers and tracking systems used in modern vehicles.
"Automakers pledge to provide protections for sensitive information that goes beyond similar principles in other industry sectors," Mitch Bainwol, chief executive officer of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a statement.
The alliance joined with the Association of Global Automakers to release a 13-page document describing steps carmakers will take to preserve customer privacy.
It said they will provide notices of privacy practices, including describing when they will share data with government authorities.
A key privacy issue the alliance cited is technology and services that track vehicle locations - such as navigation services, the location of lost or stolen cars, and automatic crash notification to call for assistance.
Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said automakers should allow customers to opt out of having their data collected.
"The principles do not provide consumers with a choice whether sensitive information is collected in the first place," he said.
Automakers that support the effort include BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobile's Chrysler Group, Ford Motor Co, General Motors, Honda Motor Co, Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, Mazda Motor Corp, Daimler's Mercedes–Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor Co, Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE>.
Some cybersecurity experts are calling for more scrutiny of the ways hackers could access onboard vehicle computer systems, which manage everything from engines and brakes to air conditioning and windshield wipers. They fear it is only a matter of time before hackers might break into wireless networks on cars to exploit software glitches and other vulnerabilities to try to harm drivers.
A non-profit group of security researchers known as "I am the Cavalry" earlier this year sent an open letter to auto company CEOs asking them to implement basic guidelines to defend cars from cyber attacks.
Josh Corman, the group's co-founder, said: "What they are bringing up is necessary but insufficient," he said. "I love my privacy. But I want to be alive to enjoy it."
(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Leslie Adler)