Some Cars Now Snitch on Drivers — and It Could Jack up Your Insurance

Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.

Driver opening a car door and looking behind
YuryKara /

It’s getting more difficult to find privacy anywhere, including when we are behind the wheel of a new car.

Increasingly, car manufacturers are pairing up with data brokers to collect and share information about how we drive, according to a recent report in The New York Times.

For example, your new car might record how often you speed, brake hard or accelerate sharply. Automakers then share this information with the insurance industry.

The NYT profiled Kenn Dahl, a 65-year-old driver in Washington state whose car insurance rate jumped 21% in 2022.

An insurance agent told Dahl that a LexisNexis report summarizing Dahl’s driving habits was a factor in the rate hike. LexisNexis is a global data broker based in New York.

So, Dahl requested a copy of his LexisNexis report.

The 258-page report contained 130 pages of details about instances of Dahl or his wife taking their Chevrolet Bolt out for a drive. In addition to tracking the couple’s driving behaviors, the report noted the start and end times of their trips and the distance they had driven.

The report said the information it contained came from General Motors, which makes the Bolt. Car manufacturers can access this treasure trove of driving data because of the increasingly sophisticated electronics that are found in cars — not to mention a connection to the internet.

In late 2023, Mozilla — the company that makes the Firefox internet browser — flatly stated that “modern cars are a privacy nightmare.” The company researched 25 car brands and all of them earned Mozilla’s dreaded “Privacy Not Included” warning label.

In its report, Mozilla stated that the way car companies collect data on drivers is “so vast and complicated.” Mozilla said car manufacturers have more opportunities to collect data on folks than cellphones and smart home devices. According to the report:

“The gist is: they can collect super intimate information about you — from your medical information, your genetic information, to your ‘sex life’ (seriously), to how fast you drive, where you drive, and what songs you play in your car — in huge quantities. They then use it to invent more data about you through ‘inferences’ about things like your intelligence, abilities, and interests.”

Mozilla reported that 84% of the car brands it researched said they can share the personal data of drivers “with service providers, data brokers, and other businesses we know little or nothing about.” In addition, 76% of manufacturers said they can sell your personal data, and 56% said they can share your information with the government or law enforcement upon request.

Based on its findings, Mozilla concluded that cars are “the official worst category of products for privacy that we have ever reviewed.”

Unfortunately, there might not be much you can do to change the situation. Nearly all car manufacturers — 92% — “give drivers little to no control over their personal data,” according to Mozilla.

In addition, drivers may unwittingly turn on optional features in connected-car apps that aid the data collection process, the NYT reports.

If you want to learn more about how your car manufacturer might be snooping on you, the NYT recommends using the Vehicle Privacy Report tool to learn more about the data your car model is capable of collecting.

You can also request your LexisNexis report or your Verisk report. Verisk is another data broker that works with insurers.

Get smarter with your money!

Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our free newsletter today.