Digital dirt: Why the data you leave in a rental car could threaten your privacy
Information not deleted from onboard infotainment systems in vehicles is a ‘considerable problem’
By Catherine Harrop, CBC News
Jan 26 2017
Larissa Reinders plugs her phone into her rental car the moment she gets in and often has to delete information from previous drivers that pops up on the screen.
The Fredericton woman admits it hasn’t crossed her mind that she might be leaving behind her own digital fingerprint when she returns the vehicle.
“You do the quick check,” she said.
“Unplug your phone and then you make sure there’s no Tim Hortons cups and then you leave. I never think to delete that phone information. Ever.”
Reinders isn’t alone. CBC checked several cars in Fredericton and found contact information on both rental and pre-owned cars, leaving breadcrumb trails of information visible to the next person who sits behind the wheel.
It’s information car rental companies and resellers are often not deleting, leaving a digital footprint that can threaten the privacy of those unsuspecting drivers.
“It’s a considerable problem, actually,” said Rajen Akalu, an assistant professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
“Most people don’t realize the amount of information that they leave behind when they pair their phone, for example, on any rental car.”
The rental experience
CBC News paired a phone to a Toyota Camry rented from Enterprise Car Rental in Fredericton.
Three names and numbers were stored on the screen.
When each number was called, each person who answered was surprised. All three wanted to remain anonymous, and most thought the car rental company should have done what they hadn’t.
“There’s nothing stopping them from deleting them if we haven’t done it,” said one businessman.
What’s stopping them
Laura T. Bryant, communications vice-president at Enterprise Holdings, said the company has almost two million vehicles worldwide, in 300 makes and models, making it almost impossible to have staff trained to delete information.
“We can’t train every employee,” Bryant said.
“It’s hard to train someone to do this 10 different ways.”
She said Enterprise Holdings, which owns Alamo, Enterprise, and National rental car agencies, is working with auto manufacturers to come up with a “consistent way” to delete information.