Posted by Dale Buss on September 26, 2011 04:41 PM
OnStar has grown so fond of its customers that it doesn't want to let go of them — ever. The General Motors-owned "telematics" brand has been hit by a letter of complaint from two U.S. Senators about its plans to continue maintaining a "two-way connection" to OnStar-equipped vehicles even after a subscriber has terminated a subscription, "unless they ask us not to do so."
This new opt-out requirement for severing your electronic ties to OnStar is set to begin December 1. The company justifies it by asserting that it will be adopting the policy basically for the car owner's own good, even if the owner isn't aware of the benefits.
"In the future, this connection may provide us with the capability to alert vehicle occupants about severe weather conditions such as tornado warnings or mandatory evacuations," Joanne Finnor, vice president of subscriber services, told brandchannel. "Another benefit for keeping this connection 'open' could be to provide vehicle owners with any updated warranty data or recall issues."
And, for GM's benefit, keeping the pipeline intact "will also allow OnStar to capture general vehicle information that could be used in future product development," she said.
But many consumers, and Al Franken and Christopher Coons aren't buying it. The Democratic senators from Minnesota and Delaware, respectively, charged in a letter that OnStar "is telling its current and former customers that it can track their location anywhere, anytime." They also worried about another invasion of privacy — that OnStar could "give or sell [customer] information to anyone as long as OnStar deems it safe to do so."
Finnor objected that OnStar has "never sold any personally identifiable information to any third party" and doesn't plan to do so.
But will GM's assurances be enough to persuade former OnStar subscribers to let it be? And do they need OnStar to tell them a tornado is coming? The public will begin rendering its verdict on these questions in a few weeks.