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Are OEMs at risk of collecting too much data?

Over 51 million vehicles will be shipped globally in 2022 with built-in connectivity, all of which share data regularly with car makers. A push towards greater transparency of data collection within the CE world is now highlighting what types of personal data app developers collect via smartphone apps.

In this insight we explore which car brands collect the most personal data from their companion apps and the growing risk of consumer backlash.

What is happening?

Every app collects personal data of some kind, but our research suggests that some car makers are collecting significantly more data than others despite not always delivering greater levels of functionality in return.

  • SBD analyzed personal data collected by nine companion apps offered by car makers in the USA on Apple's App Store.

  • GM's Guardian App was found to collect the most types of personal data, including: location, health & fitness, user content, usage data, financial info, contact info, identifiers & diagnostics.

  • When contrasting the above data with the functionality of each app, we found no discernable link between the amount of personal data collected and the value delivered to consumer.

  • Note - this analysis only covers data collected via smartphones, not cars.

Why does it matter?

Concerns about privacy only feature in less than 0.5% of all reviews analyzed by SBD, but the last few years has seen a steep increase in the number of consumers complaining about how much personal data is collected or how it is used.

  • SBD analyzed over 275,000 reviews left on Apple App Store and Google Play Store relating to OEM companion apps, and found 1,275 that included negative sentiments relating to privacy.

  • Although this only represents a tiny proportion of all reviews, the numbers have grown steeply over the last four years.

  • This aligns with recent privacy surveys: a 2021 KPMG study found that 86% of US consumers surveyed feel a growing concern about data privacy, while 40% don't trust companies to use their data ethically.

Where next?

Over the last 10 years society has entered into a 'Grand Bargain' with technology, trading privacy in favor of convenience and security. Now many consumers are feeling concerned, confused and lacking sufficient control over their personal data. This shift will lead to a re-evaluation of the Grand Bargain and new emphasis on building trust in brands.

  • Regulation alone will not address consumer concerns over privacy - companies will increasingly need to go above and beyond the box-ticking.

  • What regulation will achieve is highlight how much unnecessary data some companies are collecting.

  • Because of this we expect privacy to become a differentiator for many brands (particularly in the premium sector), who will build into their vehicles new types of privacy experiences.

  1. All trendlines point to consumers caring more about privacy.

  2. GDPR-like regulations are spreading, and governments are looking to slap fines and set examples.

  3. Some car makers are already working to position themselves as the Apple of Automotive Privacy.

  4. Expect privacy start-ups to flourish, offering new types of data anonymization and giving consumers greater control.

  5. Just as cyber security is now being baked into design principles, privacy will eventually follow.

Who to watch out for?

Apple continues to define the narrative for how privacy-friendly companies should operate, introducing greater levels of visibility and control over how personal data is managed. Car makers like Porsche are already adopting a similar brand strategy, but with all of these companies, actions speak louder than words.

  • Car makers should be in a good position to make privacy a priority - unlike tech giants like Alphabet and Facebook, their primary business model is still selling products and services rather than advertising.

  • The main barrier to delivering a privacy-friendly car is technical and organizational legacy: retrofitting privacy at the end of a design process is like painting over a damp wall - the rot always ends up showing up.

  • It's worth noting studies have shown that even Apple doesn't necessarily live up to its own marketing promise.

How should you react?


Build a regular exec-level 360 audit of all connected car data collected through every channel to evaluate how much is truly needed.


Visualize what the ideal consumer experience looks like that balances convenience and control of personal data.


Don't hide behind T&Cs - speak openly about privacy on a regular basis and address concerns consumers have over their data.

Interested in finding out more?

Most of our work is helping clients go deeper into new challenges and opportunities through custom projects. If you would like to discuss recent projects we've completed relating to data privacy, contact us today!


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