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Facing Possible Government Inquiry, OnStar Drops “Big Brother” Plans

GM telematics unit will reverse plans to track drivers – even those that unsubscribe.

by on Sep.27, 2011

Most GM vehicles currently offer an initial, free subscription to the OnStar service.

Facing intense criticism from Capitol Hill and calls for a government investigation, General Motors’ OnStar division has dropped plans that would have allowed it to track detailed personal driving information about both current and former subscribers.

The telematics subsidiary had advised users that it was changing its Terms and Conditions to permit it to track a vehicle’s speed, location and other data including whether or not a motorist was wearing a seatbelt.  A driver who dropped OnStar would still be linked to the service unless specifically opting out.  And the company said it reserved the right to sell that information to third-party marketers or even government and law enforcement agencies.

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New York’s powerful Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer termed the move a “brazen” invasion of privacy and called for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.  Facing mounting criticism from other government and private quarters, OnStar said it has canceled its policy change and will not maintain a link to customers who quit the service.

“We realize that our proposed amendments did not satisfy our subscribers,” said OnStar President Linda Marshall in a prepared statement. “This is why we are leaving the decision in our customers’ hands. We listened, we responded and we hope to maintain the trust of our more than 6 million customers.”


OnStar Under Fire for “Big Brother” Monitoring

Even after canceling subscription GM service retains right to track a vehicle.

by on Sep.22, 2011

Big Brother is calling?

A series of low-profile changes in the OnStar terms of service are generating a high level of anxiety among privacy advocates and others worried that the General Motors telematics service is turning itself into Big Brother.

The revisions mean that even after canceling service OnStar not only reserves the right to track a vehicle, collecting data such as speed and location, but also to sell that data to local governments, for example, or to companies that might want to use such information for targeted marketing.

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“Under our new Terms and Conditions, when a customer cancels service, we have informed customers that OnStar will maintain a two-way connection to their vehicle unless they ask us not to do so,” the company confirmed in a press release.