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Rental Car Drivers: How to Protect your Data when Traveling

Wanna take some days off to visit a neighboring country? Do you want to get the best of a business trip?

Renting a car might sound like a great option if you have a flexible schedule and you’re likely to adapt your trip. The convenience it gives you is priceless. However, there is a real hidden danger you should take into consideration: the sensitive personal information that remains on the car’s devices.

driving a rental car in bucharest city

While it is truly efficient for the car to store your data, you cannot deny the risks. The potential for some devious malicious person to hack into the car’s system and learn all about your trip and connections is there and can be easily exploited. The same applies as well if you’re ready for a business lease that allows you to have the car just for yourself on a medium to long period of time.

In this guide, we will tell you all about the dangers you’re facing when renting a car and how to protect your data, gadgets and remain safe after you return it!

The Privacy Risks You Face while Driving a Rental Car

The use of technology is increasing day by day and we all depend on it. Apps and devices are meant to make our lives easier. Even if they do their part, there are some problems with the data connections that can access our personal information. What do you have to do to protect the personal information that remains on the devices?

Why Pairing your Phone to the Car Gadgets is Dangerous

Nowadays, cars are filled with dashboard technology.

You have GPS navigation, Bluetooth hands-free calling systems and other data connections that make it easy for you and your daily errands.

Because no one has the time to manually input the information or memorize every number or address, these gadgets store your personal data. Rental companies usually strive to offer the best competitive fleets. Thus, are upgrading them with new-model cars, with the latest technology on board. This means you have the latest infotainment systems at hand and they let you pair your smartphone with the car via Bluetooth.

why you should not pair your phone to a rental car

What are the benefits when pairing your phone to the car?

  • take calls over the car’s audio system 
  • respond to text messages using voice commands
  • get directions and charge your phone while you stream your music

What’s not to love? The problem is that the car infotainment systems store phone data automatically once the device is connected.

What Kind of Data Gets Stored in The Car’s Infotainment System?

When you use the car’s infotainment system, it may store personal information, like:

  • device’s name and phone number
  • address book, call logs and text messages
  • routes and destinations

In this way, it will be easy to reconnect because you’ll have your call and message logs stored.

It keeps locations you entered in GPS or destinations you visited when travelling by the rental car.

But what is worse is the fact that it can store even your home or work address. While navigation, hands-free calls and good streaming music have their perks, all that stored data it’s also sitting around to be find by the next tech-savvy renter.

Most of the people return the rental car at the last moment when they are already in a hurry. Give yourself time to remove the personal data stored in the car. It’s really just a matter of minutes but it proves to be very useful in the long run.  

How to Protect your Personal Data while Driving a Rental Car

A connected car with Bluetooth system has the power of knowing pretty much all about you and your daily habits. For example, it knows where you’ve been, who you’ve called, what texts messages did you receive, etc. But that is only during the time you have your personal gadgets paired to the infotainment system.  

Many people are aware of the dangers they face when sharing personal data on the internet.

Thus, they’re spending a lot of time thinking about ways of protecting their personal information on social media, for example. The point is they rarely do the same with the stored information in a rental car.

dangers of driving connected cars

Thus, we made a list of useful advice to follow in order to protect your private data and yourself:

  • Avoid connecting your phone to the infotainment system if you just need to charge your phone. The car’s USB port may transfer data automatically.  Use a USB charger in the 12 Volt port or a cigarette lighter adapter instead. It’s not worth to risk that just for the sake of charging your device.
  • Notice what you give permissions to. Because it’s less distracting and also useful, the car’s system can ask if you’d like to download your address book to the car’s memory. This way,  you can use the car’s touchscreen to find a contact and make a call. However, if this sounds like an invasive idea to you, there is always the option to click “No” and the system won’t have access.
  • Before returning the car, delete all your data from the infotainment system. Go to the settings menu, locate and just delete your device from the previously paired Bluetooth gadgets.                                                 
  • If you used the car’s GPS instead of your own, go to the settings menu again and clear your location history. This way, nobody will know where you have been traveling.
  • For alternative methods to protect your personal information and even family, set your home address to a nearby intersection. Do not use the exact street and number. This way, if strangers get to have access to your car, they won’t know the precise directions to your specific house.
  • Don’t forget that nowadays, cars are computers on wheels. They can be hacked, infected with malware in the same way a computer can. Thus, if your connect your smartphone to a infected vehicle, your mobile phone will get the malware too. So be careful!
  • Look for alternatives! If you want to listen to some music, use a different cable to connect the headphone port on your phone to the audio system directly. If you cannot skip the benefits of hands-free calling, you should buy a third-party Bluetooth audio kit that does exactly that.

How to Erase your Personal Information Stored in the Rental Car’s System?

Most of the people skip this step because they think it’s complicated and they don’t have time for that. In fact, it is quite simple and you’ll thank yourself later. All you have to do before returning the car is to delete your data, just like this:

Go to the system’s settings menu. There, you’ll find a list of devices that have been paired. If the previous renters didn’t delete their information, you will find many Bluetooth gadgets there. Locate yours and follow the prompts to delete it.

gangers of driving connected cars

That should wipe all the call logs and contacts. You can also look for the option to do a complete factory reset. For extra safety, login to your social networks and revoke the infotainment system’s privileges from the server. All you have to do is to click Setting, then Apps and find the car model you were driving to revoke the service’s privileges.

Closing Thoughts

Technology is not evil, but the information you choose to share or simply neglect to erase can get you in trouble. 

To protect yourself and your personal information, you’ll have to learn about the privacy settings of the social networking services you use. 

Living in a technologized world clearly has some great advantages, but they pay off only if we know how to use the gadgets right. Be aware that privacy leaks happen all the time. Have a good approach to technology, follow our advice and stay safe!