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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.”

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OnStar’s “Brazen” Spying May Trigger Government Investigation

GM unit apologies for “confusion” caused by new policies.

by on Sep.26, 2011

Big Brother is watching you? OnStar's Command Center.

The possibility that General Motors’ telematics unit OnStar could spy on motorists – even after they stop subscribing to the service – has triggered a call for a government investigation by a leading U.S. senator who described the move as a “brazen” invasion of privacy.

A change made last week to OnStar’s Terms and Conditions will now only allow the service to not only track data such as mileage, speed and location of vehicles operated by current and former subscribers but also to sell that information to third parties. The GM subsidiary apologized over the weekend for any “confusion” it might have caused but said it intends to continue the practice.

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“By tracking drivers even after they’ve cancelled their service, OnStar is attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory,” said New York Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer. “I urge OnStar to abandon this policy and for (the Federal Trade Commission) to immediately launch a full investigation to determine whether the company’s actions constitute an unfair trade practice.”

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