Your car DOES NOT spy on your SEXUAL ACTIVITY

Your car DOES NOT spy on your SEXUAL ACTIVITY

Last week, Mozilla published a great article talking - in great depth - about the privacy nightmare that cars are nowadays. One of the bold claims of this article was that cars were actually monitoring our sexual orientation and sexual activity; that sounds like such a dystopic scenario that hundreds of articles and videos have been published with that title: car makers know when you have sex. Even Louis Rossman made a video about it.

There's a little issue, though: it's bullshit, and Mozilla knows it. Let's give some context. This entire discussion, as far as the Mozilla article is concerned, is about two car manufacturers: Kia and Nissan. The latter has a particularly clear privacy policy page, and that's the one that gets quoted most often.

Indeed, if you open their webpage and search for the word "sex", you can see that Nissan might collect sexual orientation and activity -- even worse, they say they might disclose those informations to business partners. But let's not panic yet. The lacking context is the third column: how will this data be collected. The answer is: only - I repeat: only - in a conversation with a Nissan employee.

Wait, what? Well, keep in mind this policy is about all the data collection from any possible Nissan operation, both for users like us and for Nissan contractors. Sure, this webpage talks about the data collected by Nissan cars, but also data collected from the website usage (such as name, surname, address).

Nissan does disclose very clearly that the car, indeed, collects data about you through the Nissan Connect {? TODO} functionality; in fact, there's an entire section about it, and it includes everything you'd expect from a data-hungry company: position, velocity, driving habits, and so on. However, this section does not include ethnicity, sexual orientation or activity, intelligence, and so on; this is because the car does not collect those information.

Instead, in a different section of the page, we have everything that can be collected by a direct contact with a Nissan employee. Now; I can only speculate on the exact reason behind this data collection policy, and I would probably be wrong. But do allow me to speculate. What if phone calls to Nissan's client support are recorded? If that's the case, people might mention, unprompted, some of their personal data; it might be something as easy as 'oh, my boyfriend encountered this problem with the car' and boom, Nissan has recording of you disclosing your sexual orientation. Legally nasty.

So, they have two options, in this speculation of mine. Either they create a system to delete any recording that has any personal information in them (which, I assue, would be fairly complex and prone to error); or, simply, they'll make you agree in advance that everything you share with a Nissan employee, Nissan will keep a record about it.

This would also explain why they say your information might be disclosed to business partners. It is not unusual for big companies to outsource some of the client support wibbly wobbly stuff to external companies; or, they might want to share the recording of the support calls with external companies for who knows what (outsourcing client service quality assurance? I don't know!). Either way, some business partner might also get access to your voice saying 'uh, my boyfriend', so that's what they state in the privacy policy. Yes, it's all speculation, but I think it's at least reasonable speculation.

Remember that sexual orientation and activity is a veeery sensitive kind of info, and there are laws specifically protecting those. Nissan might want to be extra-super-careful not to be sued out of oblivion for accidentally keeping a record of you jokingly mentioning you had sex in your new Nissan Super Cool Model on a support call. So, they just list every single law-protected personal topic in that section.

But all of that is not about what the car collects about you. It's only, only!, about what you decide to tell Nissan employees.

And yet, this feels... scary. Firstly, saying that the car does not collect sexual activity, but it "only" collects driving habits is... bleah. You shouldn't even be collecting that, right? And, yeah, I don't like the idea of being recorded when contacting Nissan employees either, nor do I like the idea of Nissan lacking a reliable system to not collect my sensitive info in the first place, even if it's me mentioning them. This whole thing, even when debunked, is just... sketchy.

Which brings me back to Mozilla. Everything they claim in their article is factually correct as they phrase it. But to actually know what's going on you have to click on a link, then click on another link, then actually read Nissan's policy, and draw your own conclusions. Nowhere does Mozilla mention anything of what I've said today; quite the opposite, everything is phrased in a way that makes it seem like car know when you have sex. It's intentionally misleading.

Lous Rossman does the same, and honestly it's disgusting to see him doing this. He start recording the video, talks about the sexual activity stuff, quickly notices about the "Only through direct contact with Nissan employee" midway through the video, stares confused at it for half a second, and start providing factuallly incorrect information completely ignoring that. The video is false, and misleading.

And yet, obviously, I agree with the goal of both Mozilla and Rossman. I want privacy. I want Nissan to do better. I think that the situation with privacy and cars is just a mess. But if we cannot achieve it through spreading factually incorrect information and, in fact, lies. There's no need to. The reality is already horrible as it is.

I will admit I'm slightly disappointed at Mozilla; but even more, I'm terribly disappointed at Rossman. He's the type of person that can just... wake up, see the Mozilla news, quickly go through it to identify the main points, start recording, post the video, and receive {? TODO} views. I wish I could pull off those numbers this easily; but I can't. That kind of audience comes with responsabilities; and when you purposefully mislead your audience, sharing factually incorrect information, just to make a point (regardless of how good the point is)... if that happens, you're not upholding those responsabilities. You are letting your viewers down. I watched your video. You let me down.

But sure: this story was picked up even by the biggest newspapers. The guardian talked about it. And sure, maybe none of them would've even covered to talk about how cars collect your driving habits, even though that would've been a much more realistic threat to our privacy. You all did a great job: you made a point. But this is not how I do things, and it's not how I want to do things.

It's actually the second time where I go through a Rossman video, and then I fact check everything just to be sure, and turns out the information is very superficial or (worst case) incorrect. The first time was about the Web Integrity video; I analyzed all the information given by the project to my best of my abilities, and I'm proud of that. my impresison is that Rossman was just picking some sentences and extrapolating a veery superficial analysis, with very little preparation before recording. To my viewers I can just say: y'all should watch his videos, because they're good, but don't trust him. Fact check everything. He cannot be trusted. But of course, don't trust me either.

Last paragraph: this video, three months ago, would've never happened. Because this video required: (a), one hour of research and comparing sources to realise Mozilla was lying. (b), one hour of writing the script, which I'm reading right now; this allows to have closed caption subtitles that are accurate for accessibility purposes, and an entire blogpost with all the same content of this channel, if you don't like videos. (c), half an hour of setting up the studio and recording. (d), err, editor, write down here how much time you spent editing this video. (e), finally, publishing the video and the blogpost and doing the thumbnail and blah blah. And this is a short video, which will most likely perform reeeally bad, because it's not about KDE, nor Linux. Three months ago, I would've never done something like this. And yet, here I am. What changed? You did. I received an overwhelming amount of donations, which allowed me to contract an editor, and even pay people to write scripts. You can see the whole team here: you've got GNOME contributors, distribution engineering leaders, and so on. If you want me to continue doing videos, and if you want all of these people to receive a paycheck to spend their time contributing to the channel and KDE or GNOME or whatever, I need this big floating progressbar to reach 100% before the end of the month. Yeah, it's basically impossible, which is going to make it hard for me to, err, do some things, but yeah: any help is appreciated, even a small donation goes a long way, and only thanks of those hundreds of small donations - thank you, thank you, thank you - I can make a video that takes hours and hours just to factcheck the bullshit that I had to hear all week. Thank you.