In the face of a full-on revolt from users and pressure from Congress, Drudge Report and other media outlets, General Motors' OnStar service just announced it was reversing plans to keep tracking vehicles of its 6 million subscribers if they cancel the service. Now once it's off, it's off.
The changes unveiled two weeks ago would have kept a data connection with any OnStar-equipped GM vehicle active unless an ex-subscriber specifically asked for it to be shut off. OnStar said it wanted to keep the connection alive to offer new services and alert vehicle owners in case of emergency or recalls — but also said it reserved the right to share or sell anonymous data about the vehicles it tracked to outsiders, including government agencies and marketers.
Since then, OnStar's seen a burgeoning customer revolt, been forced to explain its changes repeatedly and faced criticism from at least three U.S. senators accusing the service of invading privacy. Even the U.S. Federal Trade Commission was asked to probe whether OnStar was violating federal privacy rules.
OnStar President Linda Marshall now says customers who cancel will have their data connection shut off; if OnStar wants to turn it back on, it will have to get the owner's permission. And OnStar will "honor customers' preferences about how data from that connection is treated" — which leaves room for the company to still share data, but only after getting permission from users.