Auto body shops have long given customers whose vehicle has been declared a total loss a chance to get any of their personal belongings from the vehicle before it is towed away.
But what about all their digital personal information contained in that vehicle?
A Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) committee is working to raise awareness among shops about assisting customers releasing a vehicle by ensuring their personal data is deleted from the infotainment system.
“We found that most shops don’t know how to deal with this, or don’t have protocols in place yet, so we thought it would be worth addressing from a collision repair perspective,” Amber Alleyvice chairman of SCRS, said during the association’s open board meeting this summer.
The committee pointed to an SCRS Quick Tip video that explains why this is an important step. The systems may be storing information such as the owners’ contact names, addresses and phone numbers; garage door opener codes; and copies of texts, emails and call history.
“Phone syncing really is resulting in the car becoming like someone’s cell phone on wheels,” Alley said. “Pretty much anything on your phone could be getting recorded onto some module inside the car, particularly the infotainment system.”
Alley said the committee hopes to develop some best practices related to this for shops—possibly including sample wording for a customer authorization form—but in the meantime, she said the steps involved appear to be more commonly found in consumer-focused materials from the automakers rather than in the OEM repair procedures.
“So as a shop, when looking for this information, I would suggest you start with the owner’s manual and customer-based materials from the car manufacturer,” she said.
The committee noted it’s not just a vehicle’s infotainment system that may include personal customer information. Oregon shop owner Ron Reichen shared images from a vehicle’s 360-surround camera captured even while the vehicle was not in operation as part of the vehicle’s security system.
That data could include images that share information the customer would not like a future owner of the vehicle to have—such as…