You know those melodramatic OnStar commercials? The ones where someone somehow locks their baby (and keys) in the car on a blazing hot summer day, panics and calls the service to remotely unlock the vehicle’s doors? Imagine that, except without the baby, the accidentally locking the keys in the car, or the part where you have a subscription to the service in the first place.
Who needs a pesky subscription plan to track you anyway? Not us, says OnStar. The satellite based tracking service intends to start collecting speed, location and related customer data from users who discontinue service beginning this December—unless, that is, customers specifically ask OnStar to sever the connection.
No, not the service itself. You already did that if you cancelled your subscription. We’re talking something tantamount to “second service,” which sounds a little like second breakfast, only the opposite of appetizing.
Don’t you love our opt-out culture? Where companies presume they can do whatever they like unless you tell them not to? Take Sony’s recent decision to prevent customers from suing the company if they want to access its PlayStation Network. If you want to opt-out of that one, you have to send the company a snail-mail letter—no quick and simple digital “thanks, but no thanks” when you’re accepting the terms and conditions, and if you’ve even bothered to scroll through the text-wall and noticed the provision, you’re allowed just 30 days to send the letter.
Ever stopped to wonder why we’re not an opt-in culture? Because no one would, right? The stuff we’re quietly shoehorned into tends to be either consumer-unfriendly or downright creepy. No one likes opting into “track me” schemes. No one’s like, “Hey, would you please send me more junk mail? My mailbox is lonely!” And, marketing research be damned, we’re all beyond tired of being blindsided by gobs of spam from third parties whose solicitous outreach programs verge on criminal harassment.
What does OnStar want with all this data, anyway? To share with or sell it to third parties (you may be partly relieved to note they’ll at least pull specific identifiers prior to passing it along). And to be fair, OnStar’s policy notes that some of those third parties could use it for public safety or traffic-related services (the operative word being “could”). But if they want to use your activity data to make a buck, why aren’t they offering to cut you in on the deal? You are providing a service, after all. And they’re not—not if you’ve unsubscribed, anyway.
Any wonder, then, that several senators are now calling OnStar’s selling of customer location data a “privacy breach”?