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Motorists ‘leaving sensitive data on their old cars’

Failure to wipe data from a car before selling it risks inadvertently giving away personal information

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Drivers could be leaving a trove of sensitive data on their old cars by not wiping information held from connecting to a smartphone, according to a survey.

Synchronising a handset to vehicles via Bluetooth or USB allows people to do things such as play their own music, download contacts and messages, retrieve live traffic and navigation information, as well as making hands free calls or send messages.

However, failure to wipe that data from a car before selling it risks inadvertently giving away personal information to any future owners, including contact numbers, private messages, home addresses and even wifi details.

A study by Which? of more than 14,000 motorists who had sold their vehicle in the last two years found that just over half (54%) made use of such features via their phone.

The results suggest that half (51%) of drivers had not tried to unsync their phone before parting with the car, while almost a third (31%) said they took no action at all to remove their personal information.

Four out of five (79%) vehicle owners did not follow instructions in the car manual to remove data and return the car to its factory settings before they sold it, despite this being the best way to make sure no personal details are left on the operating system.

The consumer group is concerned that motorists are not being provided enough information about what is being collected when they sync their phones or download an app, and the importance of eradicating the data.

“If cars are not treated the same as a smartphone, tablet or other connected devices when it comes to data security, motorists risk giving away a treasure trove of information about themselves when they decide to sell their car,” said Harry Rose, editor of Which? magazine.

“Manufacturers must do much more to prioritise customers’ personal privacy so that drivers fully understand how much data their vehicle could be harbouring and how to delete this information in order to eradicate these risks.”

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