Advisory: delete personal data

Modern cars collect user data

Modern man is constantly producing digital data. Even in the car. That can be a problem.  

Every modern car stores personal data of its users. Anyone who sells their car, returns a rental car or returns a car sharing car should delete all private information beforehand. Since hardly any manufacturer currently offers a deletion routine, this is usually only possible with annoying detailed work. A help.  

Not all data stored in the car are immediately visible to the next user, but at least in theory they can be read out. The data is usually used and stored by the infotainment system. This is where radio, navigation and communication come together, with metadata being generated and login codes being saved. You should proceed step-by-step when deleting the data.  

First you delete or transfer all subscription services. These include, for example, the accounts with the music streaming provider, Internet contracts for the on-board WiFi or concierge services. You then log out of all apps that are stored in the vehicle infotainment system or that the car uses when it is paired with the mobile phone.  

The next step is to open the telephone menu to delete the telephone book and the connection directory. The same applies to the navigation system, which not only saves frequent destinations and the home address, but usually also a search history. Then you delete the Bluetooth pairing with your own phone.  

Some cars have more to delete. For example, the automatic garage door opener should be deactivated, if available. If a hard drive with media files is installed, it should be formatted. Personal data should also be deleted from USB sticks, which are part of the infotainment system on some models.  

How much time the digital cleaning takes depends on the car in question. Older models generate less data than newer ones. With the latter, the infotainment system can sometimes be reset to the factory settings, which makes work a lot easier. Information on this can be found in the operating instructions.  

However, convenient or automated deletion has not yet caught on. Neither with the car manufacturers nor with mobility service providers. According to a study by the ADAC, car rental companies and car sharing providers have so far only partially introduced deletion routines through which personal data is removed after the vehicle has been returned. The deletions sometimes take place after each vehicle is returned, but sometimes only the next time the vehicle is cleaned. Some providers do not delete user data at all. 

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