By Joe White
(Reuters) - The spread of technology connecting vehicles to the Internet is outpacing efforts by the auto industry and government to protect vehicles from hackers, and raising concerns about data privacy, according to a report by staff for U.S. Senator Ed Markey.
The report, based on responses by 16 automakers to questions posed by the Massachusetts Democrat, concludes that while nearly 100 percent of new vehicles on the market contain some kind of wireless communications technology, security measures to prevent hacking of vehicle electronics are "inconsistent and haphazard" across the industry.
Only two of the responding automakers said they could respond to an effort to hack on-board data systems "in real time," the Markey report found.
The report also raised concerns about privacy, noting that automakers are collecting and using large amounts of driving data, in many cases storing the data with third parties.
Customers "are often not explicitly made aware of data collection, and when they are, they often cannot opt out without disabling valuable features such as navigation," said the report, which was disclosed, by the CBS program "Sixty Minutes" on Sunday.
Markey is a member of the Senate Commerce committee with jurisdiction over telecoms and the auto industry. The report raises the potential for more regulatory scrutiny of connected vehicle systems, calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to "promulgate new standards that will protect the data, security and privacy of drivers."
Major automakers have been rushing to equip vehicles with more sophisticated electronic safety and information systems linked to the mobile internet.
The Association of Global Automakers, an industry group, last November issued a set of privacy principles for vehicles, stating among other things that automakers would not disclose location data of drivers to the government without a warrant or court order; would not share personal data collected by the vehicle with third party data brokers; and would not market to consumers using identifiable personal data without their consent.
Markey's report said the industry group's guidelines "continue to raise a number of questions regarding how car manufacturers will effectively make their practices transparent to consumers."
(Reporting By Joe White; Editing by Tiffany Wu)