In previous columns we considered trends involving Electric/Hybrid cars, telematics that create the “connected” car (giving rise to the “shared fleet” concept), the potential disruption of the Tesla “non-dealership” model, as well as some discussion about the growing role of artificial intelligence and its potential impact on our industry.

In this column, we will continue our exploration by discussing some key aspects of privacy. Particularly data privacy, and how our industry is and will continue to be impacted. How do privacy protections work in the very world where consumers want increased levels of convenience and access to information? Again, this article is not designed to provide answers nearly as much as it is intended to help stimulate the discussion and permit you to be engaged. A particle accelerator (supercollider) is used in physics to shoot atomic or now subatomic particles at each other at massive speeds to create a collision. The results of the collision are what physicists are seeking. In many respects, “privacy” and “convenience” are the subatomic particles being shot at each other. No one quite knows what will be the results of such a collision. But we do know that both concepts are critical and at play in the minds of governments and consumers.

As discussed previously, Europe is a bit ahead of the United States in considering the implications. European policymakers, in the spirit of the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) have extensive and ever evolving definitions about what constitutes data to be protected and the regulations surrounding that data. The United States is closing the gap as it implements more regulations.

Fundamentally, if data is deemed to contain personally identifying information (PII) it will be ripefor protection and afford the consumer additional rights about how such information may or maynot be used without their permission.

Whose data is it? Who can do what with the data? What are the various positions states aretaking? What is PII information? Information about a consumer that permits personal identification is generally viewed as PII. However, as we move to cars with on board systems permitting real time connectivity, more questions are arising about PII in the context of such connected vehicles. For instance, can Starbucks access the information about the route of a car
and send notices to you in your car as you near one of their stores? If so, who controls giving Starbucks that access?

Data is driving so many decisions and AI as well. The very nature of it opens up the threat that “bad data becomes an enterprise-level existential threat”. Ensuring the veracity of the data becomes paramount. Verifying the provenance, the history, of the data is key. But while this trust is essential, it comes at a cost of sometimes being less convenient and timely. In our ever-changing fast paced world of consumerism this dilemma is likely to receive a tremendous
amount of attention over the next few years.

The irony of today is that we are giving up more and more of our privacy in the search for greater convenience (Alexa, Siri, Maps, Netflix, Google, Apple, etc.) while at the same time our institutions and governments are seeking how to best protect our privacy (General Data Protection Regulation). Two strongly competing forces are at play in our lives today. Because our industry deals with automobiles, which by their nature in the United States are connected to
individuals, the evolution of this topic should be of great interest and study for each of us. It may not be so much who wins, as how does the seesaw get to a point of equilibrium.

Steve Barram

STEVE BARRAM is CEO of Integrated Services, Inc.(ISI) – software makers of LubeSoft. He has been actively involved in the fast lube segment of the automotive aftermarket industry for over 30 years through leadership roles, speaking engagements, and serving on boards.