CHOICE membership

Where does your car's data go?

No, I don’t travel much sorry. That said, rental vehicles are likely to be a wonderful tool for leaking personal information.

Our government is one of the keenest in the world to have everything it can get about us. Internet browsing history (oops, I mean metadata - in other words a whole lot more) is just one of many terrifying pieces of legislation that are now law due to a government that is keen on ‘the rule of law’ (at least as it applies to those who are not part of the inner sanctum) and an opposition that doesn’t want to look ‘weak’ because ‘paedophiles’ and ‘terrorists’.

These laws weren’t thoroughly debated in both houses of parliament; the law allowing the Commonwealth to require Internet companies to ‘break’ encryption was rushed through just in time to ‘protect our Christmas’. Do you feel safe yet?

Or perhaps the proposed flogging off - I mean, outsourcing - of ASIC’s Companies Register and associated data holdings.


You can’t delete data from a computer. It can only be overwritten and even that is not fool proof. It’s not just held in your car computer, but also downloaded by the techs who work on your car. IMHO there is no way around it, so if you can work it out, you can turn off the tracking, but that’s about it I’m afraid.


I would make 2 points here; firstly, if your vehicle is “written off” it becomes the property of the insurance company.

Secondly, modern vehicle’s computers are already capturing data about the telemetry of the vehicle some seconds before air bags are deployed. Your speed, rate of braking and acceleration and other factors.

In other words, each successive generation of motor vehicle moves ever closer to including a “black box” data recorder. After a collision, insurance companies and law enforcement agencies will be able to access the data recorder and analyse the drivers actions before a collision.

There will be no “opt out” because the computers are programmed to record data to activate other safety mechanisms.

When pilots fly aircraft, they do so clear in the knowledge and understanding that every action and conversation is recorded should an investigation be required. It will be the same for drivers of cars…but there will be no choice unless legislation is introduced that enforces the principle that ANY data stored by a motor vehicle is the property of the driver ONLY, unless a warrant for seizure is issued by a Court, and said Warrant is issued only under prescribed circumstances, such as a fatal collision or criminal act involving the vehicle.


Welcome @Stephen51.

You may have just taken the discussion on a whole new journey.

It’s worth considering that the probability of any accident being captured on a third parties recording device is increasing exponentially every year.

There may already be part of an answer in how data stored on a personal mobile phone or other device is legally managed. Such devices store data deliberately entered or acquired by the user. Other data is indirectly added to the device, such as steps counted, gps location, devices connected, mobile carrier network parameters, etc. Substantial protections may already be in place through exisiting legislation?

Would it be wise to start with discovering any digital licensing and owners T&Cs attached to a motor vehicle purchase?

  • Perhaps these are lacking when compared to other smart devices.
  • Perhaps they are there and as consumers we are not looking for them.
  • Perhaps we sign all our rights away to the manufacturer, which you appear to suggest is one outcome.

Due to the age of our family hack it is something we have never thought to consider.

One thing that comes immediately to mind. Until such time as an owner settles with their insurer including a write off, the vehicle remains the property of the owner. This suggests some ability to exercise control over any data you might like to access or remove.

In respect of accident cause or contribution, I’ve first hand experience, it is the police that investigate any major accident (which would likely cover any incident with major damage). The insurers appear to rely on the official source where necessary.

The recording of events in minute detail will likely become far more relevant with vehicles subject to semi-autonomous or full autonomous operation. There is a separate Choice topic if you are interested, as well as another on digital privacy.


It possibly isn’t the government, but many businesses use GPS trackers and telemetry monitors on their fleet vehicles. Employees can be disciplined should there be fragrant disregard of the road rules or through driver mischief.


Yes, I thought the same. Regardless of whether the insurance company seeks to gain access to data stored in the car, parties involved in the accident may have dashcams, and the surveillance state will provide any number of public cameras, and private third parties may also provide cameras (including dashcams on other vehicles and static cameras associated with businesses and homes).

Probably. The law tends to lag behind reality - where the government even has the intention to protect your data.

Although it could be in the fine print that in order to make a claim you must surrender the data, which is probably legal unless the government is motivated to pass a law to make it otherwise.


Back in the days before all this new-fangled trackability, an office vehicle was apparently involved in a weekend accident in a recreational location. Someone got into a lot of trouble.

Then there was the Australia Post driver who tailgated me, then pulled out into the other lane, cut in front and slammed on his brakes. My wife wrote down the details and we contacted the employer about his inability to appropriately control his work-supplied vehicle.