An overwhelming majority — 80 percent — of Americans surveyed say they do not trust how automakers handle their personal data, according to a recent survey by The Zebra

In older vehicles, data collection is conducted via smartphone, which can monitor your location and other activities. Newer cars record information, including the weight of the people in the front seats, whether the driver’s hands are on the wheel and even the driver’s eye movements, which could help improve the safety of future cars. 

Few regulations exist on what data can be collected and used by companies in the United States, the survey says. However, drivers usually agree to data tracking and collection when they fill out user agreement forms for a system or service. What do car companies do with the data they collect? They sell it, says The Zebra report. Selling data can yield profit margins in the range of 80 to 90 percent. The CEO of Otonomo, an automotive data services platform, says bundling and selling data from connected cars will provide automakers a substantial new revenue stream by 2020.

Automakers' trading data for money can have some positive side effects, the survey says. Businesses use in-car data in more than 100 ways, including ride-sharing optimization, location-based discounts and in-car marketing and payment programs. The overarching idea is to use consumers’ car data to enhance the driving experience while turning a profit.

More key findings include: 

  • Only one in five Americans would allow monitoring of their location and driving habits
  • Only one in four would consent to turning over their data, even if it meant sharing location and driving data led specifically to faster response times from first responders.