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How to properly remove customer data from their connected vehicles

Sunday, July 1, 2018 - 07:00
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This step is important in case any additional files were automatically copied from USB drives, phones, iPods or cards that were plugged into the vehicle at some point, possibly without the customer knowing. This small step can prevent problems and also protect the customer’s privacy – good things indeed.

Check USB outlets for forgotten drives and devices. There may be additional ones hidden in the back or in the glove box or consoles. Completely delete any of the materials that may have been copied and stored onboard.

Also, on vehicles with CD or DVD players ensure there aren’t discs hiding in the unit or in the remote changer (this is actually how I first heard Nine Inch Nails back in the 90s – from a forgotten CD left in the changer of a Buick from an auction sale). And check for any USBs still plugged in to hidden outlets, especially in the rear seats of the vehicle. If so, remove them, clear any stored data from the vehicle and return them to the customer to do with as they wish.

Clear all stored voice recognition data

Be sure to clear any voice recognition pairings, not only as a protective action but also so that new voices can be stored by the new owner. This can sometimes be a bit tricky so consulting service information is the best way to save time and know the process for sure – and searching the Internet for hints can be a big help too since a fuse may need to be removed or a door may need to be left open for this to be successful on the first attempt. A five-minute search may indeed save hours of headaches later on.

Remove any driving monitors

Certain vehicles have devices installed to monitor driving habits for fleet or insurance companies (or nervous parents). Be sure to remove them before the vehicle changes hands so that the new owner isn’t being watched without their knowledge.

Disconnect from the Cloud, delete WiFi and hotspot passwords and connections

Since the Cloud may contain files that the customer didn’t even know were automatically backed up, it’s essential to disconnect the vehicle and clear any log-in data to social networking sites that have been stored in the vehicle -- including logging in online or through any apps and making sure the vehicle is no longer allowed to access any of that information. Along those lines, make sure any Wi-Fi data has been deleted, including disabling any hotspots and passwords that have been set up or stored.

Unfortunately reviewing the owners’ manual may not be the easiest way to find out how to do this. It usually take an online search and looking around in the app itself to find out how to remove parings and access permissions to disconnect from the customer from the vehicle successfully.

Also, your customers will likely need to revoke any access granted to the vehicle through their phones and other online access points, which is usually done through the app itself.

And it’s wise at this stage to also advise the customer to change their passwords. Better safe than sorry.

Cancel any subscriptions to satellite radio or dealer connection services

In reality, forgetting to cancel OnStar (or the like) and any other subscriptions to satellite or Wi-Fi services is almost guaranteed to cause problems since it’s so tempting for the new owner (or anyone else using the vehicle) to use the service freely and run up bills that your customer will be on the hook for. Save them the aggravation – remind the customer to contact their provider and stop the services before the vehicle changes hands so they’re not still paying for services someone else is using.

Remind the customer to cancel any subscriptions to satellite radio, OnStar – unless they want to keep paying for the next owner’s services.
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