Why is data privacy important?
People in this country are more and more concerned about losing control of their data. When people drive cars that are connected or [use] an autonomous vehicle, there's going to be just a tremendous amount of data that's available. And it might give more insight to stakeholders than is available today.
What is Congress' role in this?
Our responsibility is to investigate this carefully. There are a number of stakeholders involved — the car dealers, the manufacturers, people who repair your car, local and state governments, car owners. What we need to do is have a set of hearings to look into this question from those different points of view so that we can understand what the legitimate interests are in the data and how we can provide that data in a secure way to the people who need it and to the people who have a right to it.
Have you learned any data-privacy lessons from other industries such as health or finance that the auto industry should be aware of and following?
Absolutely. We've certainly seen some of the pitfalls in other industries, in terms of data privacy, and some of the extraordinary lengths that some of these interest groups and stakeholders have taken to have access to that data. It's important to have that in mind as we move forward so that we don't allow those sorts of pitfalls to prevail. It's important that we move very aggressively on this issue. We need to go and visit the stakeholders and find out what their concerns are, what their legitimate needs are.
Do you see a difference in how the automakers might be willing to handle this data, given that some of them have been around for 100 years and they have a long-term relationship with their customers?
It's obvious that the auto industry is so much more mature. They've been through cycles with personal safety, with economic downturns, with foreign competition, so they understand what it takes to get through these things and that you have to have the confidence of consumers if you want long-term success. Although with any business, there is some need for oversight, so we don't just want to let them decide what's best for the industry. That'll end up giving them way too much control.
What are some guidelines that companies in the connected-car industry can follow as they move forward with all of this data they will be collecting?
I think the health care industry is a good place for them to start. We've seen how important that data is, how valuable, and yet how personal. If there's an illegitimate use of that data, then people can be put at risk. I think that would be a good place for them to look in terms of how do you protect that data, what data do you need to have versus what data you want to have, and how do you share that data, under what conditions. Those are good examples for the auto industry.