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What is Your Phone Telling Your Rental Car?

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When I rent a car, it’s fun to get all the bells and whistles – like navigation, hands-free calls and texts, streaming music and even web browsing. But did you know that cars with these features might keep your personal information, long after you’ve returned your rental car? Here are some things to keep in mind when renting a connected car.

What happens when you rent a connected car? When you use the car’s infotainment system, it may store personal information. It may keep locations you entered in GPS or visited when travelling in the rental car – like where you work or live. 

If you connect a mobile device, the car may also keep your mobile phone number, call and message logs, or even contacts and text messages. Unless you delete that data before you return the car, other people may view it, including future renters and rental car employees or even hackers.

If you decide to rent a connected car, here are some steps you can take to protect your personal information:

  • Avoid connecting your mobile phones or devices to the infotainment system just for charging. It’s safer to use a cigarette lighter adapter to charge devices, instead of the car’s USB port. Why? In some cases, the USB connection may transfer data automatically.  
  • Check your permissions. If you do connect your device to the car, the infotainment system may present a screen that lets you specify which types of information you want the system to access. Grant access only to the information you think is necessary – if you just want to play music, for example, you don’t need to okay access to your contacts.
  • Delete your data from the infotainment system before returning the car. Go into the infotainment system’s settings menu to find a list of devices that have been paired with the system. Locate your device and follow the prompts to delete it. The owner’s manual and the rental car company may have more information about how to delete your data.

Want to learn more about how your personal information is shared and used every day? Watch this short video.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.




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