OnStar Updates User Agreement to Allow Tracking After Cancelation and Sale of Your Location

GM began notifying customers last week of an update to the privacy statement for its OnStar emergency car service. The changes to the privacy statement, effective December 2011, are clearly marked, in plain English, and chilling:

paranoia coptersWe have added more detailed information about the information we collect about you and about your Vehicle, including how we collect your information, what we do with it and how we share it. For
example, unless the Data Connection in your Vehicle is deactivated, information about your Vehicle may continue to be collected even if you do not have a Plan.

In addition to other purposes set out in the prior version of the Privacy Statement, we may use the information we collect about you and your Vehicle to improve the quality of our Service and offerings and may share the information we collect with law enforcement or other public safety officials, credit card processors and/or third parties we contract with who conduct joint marketing initiatives with OnStar

So, I cancel OnStar and they stop tracking me, right? Not so fast!

Unless the Data Connection to your Vehicle is deactivated, data about your Vehicle will continue to be collected even if you do not have a Plan.  It is important that you convey this to other drivers, occupants, or subsequent owners of your Vehicle.  You may deactivate the Data Connection to your Vehicle at any time by contacting an OnStar Advisor.

Yup. Unless you specifically contact OnStar and opt-out, OnStar will continue to track your vehicle forever with your personal data on the auction block to the highest bidder or freely available to any government agency who comes knocking. What personal data? Let’s see:

  • Diagnostic codes, oil life, tire pressure, odometer reading, and fuel economy
  • Was your car ever in a crash? When? Where? What side? Did the air bag deploy? Were you using your seat belt?
  • History of when your car’s ignition was turned on and off and when the gas tank was refilled.
  • Speed and location of your vehicle using GPS satellite data.
  • Pair your cell phone to your car? Well, OnStar tracks that too! They do not explicitly list what information they harvest from your phone, but it’s safe to say that the IMEI or ESN (unique identification codes used in all mobile electronics) is passed along… at the very least.
  • Use OnStar’s Hand’s-Free Calling minutes? They also collect info “such as call detail records, the number of minutes purchased, the date minutes were purchased, the number of remaining minutes, and their expiration date".

You can check out OnStar’s new “privacy policy” (SPOILER: You don’t have any) in PDF form here.

Happy motoring! …and it had better be happy. The world is watching.


  1. Great, now we can free up those black helicopters for more uses now that they aren't tracking us on the road. I don't know why anyone would expect privacy from a company that's main purpose is to track you and your car usage.

  2. I think the real shocker was that you still don't have any privacy even after you stop using OnStar.

    Oh, and the fact they can sell your data to "third parties we contract with who conduct joint marketing initiatives with OnStar".

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