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How to properly remove customer data from their connected vehicles

Sunday, July 1, 2018 - 07:00
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Remove Bluetooth pairings and clear phone data

Unpairing any Bluetooth devices and resetting factory settings is usually really easy to do using the vehicle’s onboard display. Just scroll through settings and clear all connections and reset to factory settings and remind the customer to delete the pairing from their phones. Clear out any stored phone numbers, dialed numbers, contact lists favorites and the like. Since the contacts list may have been imported into the vehicle this is a fairly important step to prevent problems.

If you’ve ever rented a vehicle it’s surprising to see how many people don’t do this -- just look and see how many folks have paired their phones and not deleted their connection and other synced data.

Be sure to erase any Bluetooth pairings. This is one of the parings left in a Las Vegas rental car -- “Kerry’s” phone is still paired to the vehicle.

Also ensure any stored data, files or photos that may have been copied are also deleted. Remind your customer to remove any access granted to the vehicle by the phone or other device. True, many vehicles won’t be able to access to data if the phone isn’t present but it’s still wise to delete everything so that the vehicle appears to have been thoroughly cleared and troublemakers won’t be tempted to keep looking for any other data left behind to build a more complete profile. Small steps now can prevent big headaches from developing later on.

Clear GPS data

Resetting the GPS is also usually straightforward, done by navigating through the unit itself and selecting the option to delete or reset data — look under settings and either reset to factory settings or delete everything individually.

This means ensuring any “Favorites,” “Home” and “Recently Found” places and personalized settings are indeed deleted and also checking that anything other data (like files, photos and images) was also removed so that the customer doesn’t let strangers know where they live, hang out, and travel to on holiday.

Managing this data correctly can be a bit more serious since in the wrong hands it can provide a path directly to the customer’s home (where those paired Bluetooth phones may be) and also to areas where they’ve recently been staying. One law enforcement officer I know always sets his “home” to be an intersection near his house, not actually at his address just in case someone gets hold of the data stored in his vehicle.

10 ways for techs to disconnect a customer
from a vehicle
1. Remove Bluetooth pairings, phone data and history.
2. Delete GPS history and favorites, clear "Home" data.
3. Ensure DVDs, CDs, USBs, are all removed and all outlets are left empty.
4. Clear all stored media and files that may have accidentally been copied and stored on the vehicle.
5. Disconnect from the Cloud.
6. Disconnect Wi-Fi or Hotspots, change the passwords, and delete or remove any permissions from devices and apps.
7. Clear all voice recognitions.
8. Clear all garage door codes.
9. Remove any driving monitoring device (if installed).
10. Remove any papers with data from the vehicle.

One further note, if the navigation system’s storage has been expanded, remove any cards that may have been used to expand the memory (so long as it doesn’t affect the system operation – and if so let the customer know the card is still there). Removing these helps protect your customer’s privacy and removes the temptation to see what else might be stored and forgotten about in a connected vehicle.

Clear stored garage door codes

Since it’s so easy to find out previous owner’s home address (for example, from stored GPS settings), ensure the vehicle’s garage door opener is reset before the vehicle changes hands – this may indeed need to be performed as a separate step in addition to resetting all other data – in other words, NOT done through the vehicle screen. This is usually easy to do and the steps are listed in the owner’s manual (again, a quick Internet search usually does the trick too if the manual is missing or damaged).

Letting strangers have access to the garage (and possibly the entire house if it’s accessed through the garage) is usually a bad idea. Clear out the data and keep your customer safe.

Clear all stored media and files

If the vehicle has an integrated hard drive to store music, photos, files and the like it should definitely be reset and cleared out before the vehicle changes owners. This may be as simple as scrolling through the screen and making a single selection to reset everything, or each item may need to be deleted individually. Either way, it needs to be done. Again, the manual should be able to walk you through it if it’s a bit tricky and if the manual is incomplete or missing the manufacturer websites are often helpful.

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