updated 03:40 pm EDT, Tue September 27, 2011
OnStar decides against making data cutoff opt-out
OnStar quickly backtracked from a policy that drew a senator's accusations of privacy violations with a policy change on Wednesday. Rather than leave the data link turned on for ex-subscribers unless they opt out, the GM-backed car service will turn off data the moment service drops. If a post-cancel option for data came through, it would only be an opt-in process, OnStar president Linda Marshall said.
While not going into detail on the reasons behind the switch, Marshall was direct in saying that public response had prompted the change of heart. "We realize that our proposed amendments did not satisfy our subscribers," she said.
The original plan, which would have taken effect December 1, was supposed to give even former customers a free notice if there was a recall for the car or a natural disaster in the area. It would also have helped in "planning future services" by tracking habits, according to OnStar's leader.
Privacy advocates, including Senator Charles Schumer, saw the change as unnecessary monitoring. Most see cancelling OnStar as a de facto opt-out request and that it would mean GM was tracking the positions of every car that had ever had OnStar unless drivers knew to opt out. Some were concerned it could lead to government abuse of location info or to purely self-interested factors, such as ads.