Q&A: I left my data on the infotainment system of a rental car. Problem?

People in a rental car using the infotainment system, illustrating the importance of data security.

When you use Bluetooth to connect your phone to a rental car infotainment system, the system could get ahold of your call logs, contacts list, phone number, and more. Learn what to do.

Question: I rented a car and left my data on the infotainment system. Is that a problem?

Answer: Getting a rental car with a nice infotainment system can be a lot of fun — at least while you're cruising along listening to your favorite music as the GPS guides you down the road.

But after you get home, panic may hit if you forget to delete your phone info from the system. You may worry that an identity thief or the next customer to slide behind the wheel will get ahold of your personal information.

The nonprofit privacy watchdog Privacy International has found that most rental car companies put the onus on the customer to delete their own data without giving clear instructions on how to do so. And even a driver who unpairs their phone from a rental car may still be at risk.

When you use Bluetooth to connect your phone to a rental car infotainment system, the system may get ahold of info such as your call logs, contacts list, phone number, locations visited, and in-car internet search history.

So, next time you rent a car, read the privacy policy to see if the rental company does a factory reset between customers. (Most don't, but the issue is getting more attention.)

And remember that it may not be enough to just delete your phone from the list of paired devices before turning in the car. Instead, check the car manual and look for a factory reset button. If you can't find it, ask the rental car staff for help before you turn over the keys.

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Allie Johnson
  • Allie Johnson
  • Freelance Writer
Allie Johnson is a freelance journalist who covers cybersecurity, privacy, and consumer topics. She has written for Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Discover.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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