OnStar Changes its Mind About Tracking Vehicles

On Tuesday OnStar said that it has decided to reverse its proposed Terms and Conditions policy changes, and will not keep a data connection to customers’ vehicles after the OnStar service is canceled.

The about-face arrives just under a week after the company updated its Terms and Conditions with the right to sell the GPS-derived data it pulls from OnStar systems in an anonymous format. The new terms enabled the company to keep a constant connection to an installed system even after the customer canceled the subscription. Naturally this caused a rush of negative feedback, especially since the policy meant OnStar could track the vehicle's movement and speed, and then possibly sell the info to local law enforcement.

According to OnStar, the new policy wasn't expected to kick in until the beginning of December, but the company began sending out emails last week announcing the new change in terms. Yet even during the aftermath following the new policy's exposure, OnStar pointed out that prior customers could actually call in and request that OnStar halt its unwanted connection. But that simply wasn't enough to keep consumers from lighting up torches and burning their contracts, so the company reverted back to its original Terms and Conditions.

"We realize that our proposed amendments did not satisfy our subscribers," OnStar President Linda Marshall said on Tuesday. "This is why we are leaving the decision in our customers’ hands. We listened, we responded and we hope to maintain the trust of our more than 6 million customers." She added that if OnStar ever offers the option of a data connection after cancellation, it would only be when a customer opted-in, not by force. Even then, OnStar would honor customers’ preferences about how data from that connection is treated.

Last week an OnLive spokesman said that the post-subscription connection was kept alive in order to make it easier for consumers to renew their subscription. But Tuesday Marshall said that the constant data connection was to allow OnStar to provide urgent information about natural disasters and vehicle recalls to the former customers. Sounds like mixed messages, to be honest.

 "We regret any confusion or concern we may have caused," Marshall said.