Data Protection and the Auto Industry

What do Target, Home Depot, Chase, and Kmart have in common? They have all fallen short on data protection, exposed their customers’ data to criminals and suffered the loss of customer confidence and business that comes with it. Dealerships are exposed to many of the same issues of data security as the big guys, but without the security budget to protect their data. Preventing a data breach is an issue that proactive dealerships are already addressing, but there is another aspect of protecting their customer data that is out of dealerships’ control—the information collected by the vehicle itself.

There are already 23 million cars connected to the internet and by 2020 that number will rise to 152 million. Those cars contain a lot of personal customer data and if there’s a data breach, the manufacturers might get the blame, but it won’t matter who’s fault consumers think it is if they start avoiding a car maker’s franchise dealerships, because of fears of data breaches.

Fortunately the manufacturers have realized the risk and have taken steps to protect their data, including forming an automobile industry ISAC and working with the government to create privacy regulations. With efforts like these, vehicle manufactures will hopefully prevent the kind of data breach and loss of revenue and reputation that have effected other industries.

Don’t Bury Your Head in the Sand

Data security is only going to become more important to consumers. So, auto dealers and salespeople need to be aware of the work manufacturers are doing to keep their customers’ data safe and communicate it to their customers.

Just explaining the security is not enough, however. Dealers also need to be able to explain why they’re collecting the information in the first place. If you collect mileage information to remind customers about regular maintenance, use GPS to let you know when they’re on your lot for service, or use their vehicles’ data in some other way let them know why and more importantly, how it benefits them.

Be transparent; and if a customer doesn’t want to participate, have a way for them to opt out. Customers understand their data is being collected, but they want to feel in charge of what is collected, who it is shared with, how it’s used, and how it’s protected. Give them control and you’ll be amazed how much your customers will freely share with you. Just ask Facebook.

Michael Bowen


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