mobile phones

Have you given away your personal data when selling your car?

personal data
Cars are increasingly data hubs. But how do you keep control of personal info? (Picture iStock/oonal)

Modern motors are technical marvels that are more than capable of storing our personal data. And new research has revealed that when they sell their car, thousands of drivers are giving away potentially delicate information such as friends’ and relatives’ names and addresses. Read on to find out if you’re in danger of doing that or have perhaps already done it.

How do cars store personal data?

Increasingly, cars let drivers pair their smartphones with them via Bluetooth. This enables owners to listen to their favourite music, make phone calls and send and receive text messages – all perfectly legally and without touching their mobile phones.

For added convenience, most cars give their owners the option to download their contact information to the car’s computer drive. This enables drivers to access their phone’s call records and people’s contact details via the car’s screen. The study by Which? found that 54 per cent of drivers had synced a mobile phone to their car using either Bluetooth or a USB cable.

Why is this problematic?

The potential for trouble arrives when the owner comes to sell the car. If the phone is not disconnected and the account on the car and any additional information that’s been downloaded deleted, the new owner or owners could access it.

Is this a big problem?

Researchers from Which? discovered that more than half of drivers (51 per cent) didn’t bother unsyncing their phones after selling the car. Nearly a third (31 per cent) didn’t even bother wiping their personal data from the car.

More worryingly, four out of five drivers (79 per cent) haven’t followed the factory reset instructions on how to permanently remove data from their car. And more than half (58 per cent) didn’t bother to manually delete any data.

personal data
Cars give us ever more data to make our lives easier. But drivers must wipe cars’ systems when they sell them (Picture Volvo)

What about in-car apps?

An increasing number of cars can be linked with apps that you install on your mobile phone. This enables drivers to pair their phone with their car’s main functions. It means they can track their car’s location or unlock and drive the car using their phone as a virtual ‘key’. Some even allow access by other specified people, using their phone as a key.

Researchers found that 68 per cent of sellers didn’t bother doing a factory reset to uninstall the app. And half of drivers didn’t even bother unpairing the app from the car when they sold it.

What should drivers do?

First thing is to delete the connection between your phone and the car. This is simple to do, usually involving finding connected devices on the car’s screen and deleting the appropriate ones. You can also delete the connection on your phone.

You will know the car has downloaded your contact details if you search on the car’s screen for a contact or access the recent calls menu. If these have information in them, they’re in the car’s memory.

Wiping the information from the car might be a little involved. But the car’s user manual should tell you how to do it. And if it doesn’t, you could pop into a manufacturer’s franchised dealer. Deleting the data will be the work of a moment for someone who knows your make of car.

Is this going to get worse?

By 2026, it’s estimated that every new car will have the ability for owners to connect electronic mobile devices to them. CIFAS, the UK’s largest cross-sector fraud protection organisation, says identity theft using people’s personal data is already one of the UK’s fastest growing crimes.

What the expert says

Editor of Which? Harry Rose said: “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.”

Mobile phone driving laws: how to use a phone in-car legally and safely

Mobile phones driving laws how to be legal and safe if using a phone in a car

In 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to make using a phone when driving as unacceptable as drink-driving. Last April, tougher penalties were introduced to deter phone use at the wheel.

But since then, more than 200 drivers a day have been prosecuted for using their phone while driving. That means they’ve been slapped with six points on their licence and a £200 fine.

Some drivers complain they find the law confusing around the areas of making calls while driving and using a phone as a sat nav device. Many reason this confusion comes from being told it’s okay to use a phone while driving when it’s in hands-free mode.

This is what motorists need to know to stay on the right side of the law. As importantly, it will help keep them and other road users safe.

The law: hands-free phone use

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Mobile phone dangers: even hands-free can be hazardous for drivers

Mobile phone dangers

Using a hand-held phone at the wheel is dangerous but it’s not great using hands-free either

Mobile phone dangers at the wheel aren’t just limited to drivers who hold handsets. Research shows that even drivers who talk using hands-free kits can be less safe.

Highlighting how dangerous using a mobile phone while at the wheel can be, the penalty for using a handset was increased at the beginning of March 2017. The fine was doubled to £200 and six penalty points for drivers caught phoning or texting. It means anyone caught twice for the offence could lose their licence.

However, research shows that simply the act of talking on a phone while driving can lead to greater distraction and taking longer to react to hazards.

Why is talking on the phone while driving dangerous?

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Driving Emotion Test: how likely are you to get angry at the wheel

Driving Emotion Test

A new Driving Emotion Test has been designed by psychologists to enable drivers to find out how likely they are to get wound up in their car. Using technology that monitored people’s facial reactions, where their eyes were looking, and their heart rate, 1000 drivers were tested. The researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London fed the data into a computer using specially created software.

The result gave each participant an individual score and the results revealed that women drivers tend to get angrier than men. If you dispute this, you can have a go using a version of the Driving Emotion Test on a special website set up by car company Hyundai which commissioned the research.

What did the Driving Emotion Test find?

The tests included drivers being undertaken, honked at, shouted at and having to deal with back-seat drivers or people who failed to indicate. The results showed that women were 12 per cent more likely to react angrily than men. Men, meanwhile, are more comfortable opening up if they’re in a car. Just fewer than a third of men (29 per cent) said they find it easier to have a conversation in a car. And 14 per cent even claim that they drive better if they’re having a chat.

Why do women drivers get cross?

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