Ford Authority

Feds Can Access Private Phone Data Through Ford Infotainment System

Technology has had a profound effect on the automotive industry in recent years, particularly in terms of in-car infotainment systems. These days, we’re buying cars with progressively bigger and bigger screens, packed with incredible computing power and complex software capable of completing a wide array of tasks. But it seems that all of the benefits provided by something like the latest Ford infotainment system might also come at a big cost, and that’s our privacy.

According to a new report from The Intercept, the U.S. Customs and Border Control recently purchased five “vehicle forensics kits” from a Swedish company called MSAB, which are actually manufactured by an American firm called Berla. What’s particularly alarming about this otherwise non-descript transaction is that Berla openly touts its ability to extract private data from vehicle infotainment systems.

This wouldn’t be of particular concern if the data extracted was limited to something like a Ford infotainment system itself, but that isn’t what the feds are after. Rather, they want to retrieve personal data from our smartphones – the ones we immediately pair with our vehicles when we purchase them without giving it a second thought.

Mining this data from a vehicle’s infotainment system is apparently much easier than from smartphones, which carry a number of safeguards to protect them from unwanted data extraction. Even Berla admits that shockingly few people realize just how much personal data is shared between a user’s phone and their vehicle, which is then stored in the infotainment system without their knowledge.

Another major concern is the fact that the CBP can legally retrieve this data without even bothering to obtain a warrant. “It would appear that this technology can be applied like warrantless phone searches on anybody that CBP pleases,” Jacinta Gonzalez of the Latinx advocacy organization Mijente told The Intercept. “With this capability, it seems very likely CBP would conduct searches based on intelligence about family/social connections, etc., and there wouldn’t seem to be anything preventing racial profiling.”

This report is certainly concerning for anyone that owns a modern vehicle, but it also raises questions as to how automakers can better protect private data, particularly when vehicles are becoming more and more technologically advanced with each passing generation. After all, even Ford has experienced security flaws that have exposed user data in the past, and with the automaker betting big on the future of connected vehicles, this figures to become an even hotter topic in the coming years.

We’ll have more on these and other privacy concerns soon, so be sure and subscribe to Ford Authority for ongoing Ford news coverage.

Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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  1. Njia

    Privacy? We gave that up the instant we downloaded Facebook to our phones.

    1. The Gentle Grizzly

      We who? Not everyone has Facebook and many of us have NO social media presence. We have lives.

  2. CE

    The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’
    Ronald Reagan.

    Was thinking it predated President Reagan, but whoever it was, had no idea just what the future held in store for us. The past science fiction is today’s technology, & yes, someone somewhere will misuse it (especially the government)!

  3. Me

    I don’t hook any of my technology up to these things. There’s no reason to.

  4. Lee Glidewell

    Now that everyone carries a smart phone (still haven’t found the ‘smart end/side’ of this POS), why is this surprising? Looks like y’all got technologied right into the freakin’ corner.

  5. Louie Guertin

    Seems to me there is a question of ownership of the information. It is not as if the info is discarded. Does the transfer to the infotainment computer release private ownership for others to not public view but to mine for view? This is a case of more than looking through a door or window.

    1. C Meyers

      Great point. This has always been an interesting point even extending to those that allow insurance companies to monitor them while they drive. That data, regardless of who owns it, is being used to determine or alter their rates. I see huge legal battles over this going forward,

  6. Louie R Guertin

    This intrusion into privacy is much greater than seeking illegals. This is not about policing. No warrant means your business is at will not like Facebook where you control what is or is not public notice. Would you accept authorities peering in your window and digging in your garbage because they can? That is key they can. Our government cannot be oppressive. Those that work in government can and at times are oppressive. State tax department personnel have abused the tax payer and costs have had to intercede. Remove your shackles and blindfold. See the truth.


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