A federal judge upheld the dismissal of a “class action lawsuit alleging four auto manufacturers had violated Washington state’s privacy laws by using vehicles’ on-board infotainment systems to record and intercept customers’ private text messages and mobile phone call logs,” The Record reports.
The case is one of five related class action lawsuits alleging Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and General Motors violated the state’s Washington Privacy Act (WPA).
Court rules automakers can record and intercept owner text messageshttps://t.co/piflAeSkbJ
— Wittgenstein (@backtolife_2023) November 14, 2023
The Record reports:
The Seattle-based appellate judge ruled that the practice does not meet the threshold for an illegal privacy violation under state law, handing a big win to automakers Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen and General Motors, which are defendants in five related class action suits focused on the issue. One of those cases, against Ford, had been dismissed on appeal previously.
The plaintiffs in the four live cases had appealed a prior judge’s dismissal. But the appellate judge ruled Tuesday that the interception and recording of mobile phone activity did not meet the Washington Privacy Act’s standard that a plaintiff must prove that “his or her business, his or her person, or his or her reputation” has been threatened.
In an example of the issues at stake, plaintiffs in one of the five cases filed suit against Honda in 2021, arguing that beginning in at least 2014 infotainment systems in the company’s vehicles began downloading and storing a copy of all text messages on smartphones when they were connected to the system.
“Plaintiffs’ operative complaint alleged that their vehicles’ infotainment systems download and permanently store all text messages and call logs from Plaintiffs’ cellphones without their consent. At the pleading stage, this alleged violation of a substantive privacy right is sufficient to confer standing,” the ruling read.
“We also conclude, as in Jones, that the district court properly dismissed the merits of Plaintiffs’ claim under the WPA,” it continued.
“The district court properly dismissed Plaintiffs’ claim for failure to satisfy the WPA’s statutory injury requirement,” the ruling added.
What if the Feds were to use car manufacturers as a work around to get all of your call and text logs?
-Court rules automakers can record and intercept owner text messageshttps://t.co/X5tu9gNIXo
— Shadygrooove (@shadygrooove) November 14, 2023
From The Verge:
The federal judge’s ruling states that the district court “properly dismissed” the four remaining cases, adding that they don’t satisfy the WPA’s statutory injury requirement, which says plaintiffs must allege an injury to their person, reputation, or business. “Plaintiffs’ allegation that a violation of the WPA itself is enough to satisfy injury to a ‘person’… without more, is insufficient to meet the statutory requirement,” the ruling says.
As automakers continue to build out their infotainment systems with features designed to help you answer calls and text messages, privacy advocates argue that manufacturers aren’t doing enough to protect user data. A 2022 report from The Markup found that automakers are not only collecting data about your car but also sending it to vehicle data hubs to process that information.
In September, the Mozilla Foundation published a report that said modern cars “are a privacy nightmare,” noting that several big-name car brands, including Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, and Tesla, didn’t meet the organization’s minimum privacy standards. Until something is done to regulate the vehicle data industry, companies may continue to collect everything from vehicle speed and the music you’re playing to your location.
Read the full ruling below: