GM: OnStar Will Sever Connection with Non-Customers

Good news: if you have OnStar in your vehicle yet don’t subscribe to the service, General Motors says your vehicle will no longer have an accessible connection to its telematics network.

GM issued a statement confirming this fact, after it was recently discovered that OnStar equipment can still connect to the network – and GM can still track and interface with the units – even once the driver cancels a subscription to the telematics service.

Under the terms of the previous OnStar terms of service, customers could opt out of this connection, but GM recently amended the terms of service agreement to prevent such an option. GM maintains that the retained network connection would have allowed it to alert owners to recalls or severe weather emergencies, but it didn’t rub many consumers –especially those with a phobia of Big Brother – the right way.

Blogger Jonathan Zdziarski published a post a week ago that not only cited the OnStar service terms, but noted it also provided conditions allowing GM to collect and potentially disseminate information–such as GPS location–to other parties without opt-in consent — even after an owner canceled service.

The post went viral online and prompted some action in Washington, D.C. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), and Charles Schumer (D-NY) all expressed concern at the move. Schumer even called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate OnStar for wrongdoing, claiming that the policy change was “attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory.”

That said, GM’s reversed course, and has scrapped plans to contact or communicate with expired OnStar hardware. If it does, GM will do so on an opt-in – not an opt-out – basis.

“We regret any confusion or concern we may have caused,” OnStar president Linda Marshall said in a prepared statement.

Schumer and Coons later praised OnStar for quickly reversing the change and adding a clause to its ToS that says the service won’t “share your personal information with third-party marketers.”

Source: General Motors, Detroit News