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3 data precautions to take when you’re renting a car

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Why the car might not be the only thing left behind at the return line.We still may be a long way's away from self-driving cars or flying cars, but that doesn't mean today's cars aren't stocked with gadgets, GPS systems and other technical wonders. As ridesharing tech companies have exploded in popularity, though, it's easy to forget about the tech in a form of ridesharing that's been around for a while: rental cars!

Here are 3 precautions you should take with your data when you're renting a car:

1. Careful charging your phone.

The USB ports in many modern cars may connect to built-in computers: navigation software systems, infotainment systems, and the like. While these kinds of systems may offer a variety of great services – navigation maps on the dashboard screen, personal playlists using the car's speakers, even using your phone's apps through the car – these built-in computers may have the capability to access and store personal data you have on your phone.

So, if you need to charge your phone in a rental car, think carefully before you plug it in. If the car has a plain-old cigarette lighter, this may be a better option than charging through a built-in USB port or other data-transfer-capable method.

2. If you use an infotainment system, pay attention to the permissions.

When you plug your phone's charging cord into the USB jack or connect through Bluetooth/Wi-Fi, the infotainment system may show permission prompts on the car's navigation screen. Basically, you'll see some sort of question on the car's screen asking you to allow or deny permission for certain kinds of access. Only allow the car's system to access information on your phone that you feel is necessary; for example, you may not want to provide location access if you're just streaming music from your playlists. You should also be aware that once you provide the access requested, you may not be able to completely delete the information accessed.

3. If you do allow access, try to delete your data before returning the car.

If you decide to let your phone's data connect with the rental car's system, you should try to delete the information it has accessed. Before returning the car, look through the infotainment system's settings, if it has them, and try to clear your data from the car.

Just because you rent a car doesn't mean it has to be boring or tech-free. And only you can decide whether cybersecurity risks taken by connecting your phone to the rental car outweigh the benefits you'd get. Either way, though, it pays to be careful with your personal data, especially when you’re using a shared electronic resource like a rental car!

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