Sometimes complaining about something can actually result in change. In this situation the combination of angry consumers and outraged Senators caused OnStar to alter their newly announced terms of service update, removing the clause that allowed them to continue to track customers after service was cancelled.
Last week OnStar customers received an email that indicated two major changes were coming to the company’s Terms of Service (ToS). Effective December 1st, OnStar would be able to continue to track customers even after they cancelled service and they would be allowed to sell customer information to any third-party marketer they worked with. Customers are obviously unhappy with both clauses but the continued tracking clause got the attention of three U.S. Senators.
Senator Chuck Schumer (New York) was the most vocal about his anger calling this the most “brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory.” Schumer actually called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate. Two other Senators, Al Franken (Minnesota) and Chris Coons (Delaware) spoke out about the surveillance calling it a “privacy breach.”
It looks like the combined anger of customers and Senators was enough to get OnStar to remove that clause in the updated ToS. The company released a very brief press release on Tuesday to address the change.
“OnStar announced today it is reversing its proposed Terms and Conditions policy changes and will not keep a data connection to customers’ vehicles after the OnStar service is canceled.”
The release indicates if a customer does want their data tracked (why they would I have no idea) they can opt-in for that.
What this release does not address is the other clause in the updated ToS which does a complete flip from OnStar’s original stance regarding GPS data. In 2010 the ToS stated that OnStar would never expose that data to third-parties but now they are retaining the right to give or sell that data to the third-party marketers and researchers that they have a relationship with.
The data tracking is problematic but it could have been fixed by a customer angry enough to call and get a hard disconnect done on their service. An alternate option is to simply pull the OnStar fuse in your vehicle severing the connection. This clause about selling data isn’t something that can just be fixed with a phone call and that makes it the more problematic of the two. We’ll see if continued customer outrage changes OnStar’s mind about that issue but it’s likely that they won’t be as quick to pull that out of the updated terms.