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Volkswagen Infotainment Systems Download Texts Washington Class Action

How does Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (VWAG), a car company, get accused of breaking the Washington Privacy Act (WPA)? According to this class action, the problem is certain infotainment systems in VW vehicles. The complaint alleges that when a smartphone is connected to a certain kind of VW infotainment system, it downloads and stores a copy of all text messages on the smartphone. The messages are not accessible to you, and you may not even know they are preserved in your vehicle; but the complaint claims they are accessible to law enforcement and other regulatory or private parties who might want to investigate you.

The class for this action is all persons who, between September 3, 2018 and September 3, 2021, had their text messages recorded by the infotainment system of a VW vehicle (including a VW, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, or Lamborghini, while a resident of the state of Washington.

VWAG vehicles contain infotainment systems that can be used to make hands-free calls. They can be connected to both Apple (CarPlay) and Android (Auto) smartphone systems. The complaint alleges, “On information and belief, infotainment systems in VW vehicles from at least 2014 onward also download and store a copy of all text messages on smartphone when those phones are connected to the infotainment system.”

Berla Corporation is a third-party company that makes the equipment that permits the infotainment system to do this. Does that mean you can later go back to your car and find a certain message that was on your smartphone? No. The Berla system and downloaded messages are not accessible to the owner of the vehicle.

However, the complaint quotes Berla as saying, “Our vehicle forensics tools are available to law enforcement, military, civil and regulatory agencies, and select private industry organizations.”

The complaint also quotes a Berla founder and CEO as saying, “We’ve been working directly with the [original equipment manufacturers] themselves to educate them. Hey, ‘this is privacy data,’ ‘this is what you need to secure.’ But we only do that when it’s part of an agreement that they will allow law enforcement in.”

An NBC news story quoted the same person as saying on a podcast saying that, while most people aren’t doing anything wrong, “it’s pretty funny to see the hookers and blow request text messages and answers.”

This happens not just when you own the car, but when you rent a VW vehicle as well.

According to the complaint, the Washington Privacy Act “forbids any entity in Washington from intercepting or recording any private communication without first obtaining the consent of all the participants in the communication.”

One of the two plaintiffs in this action is Gellert Dornay, who owns a VW vehicle. The other is Mark Jones, who sent Dornay a text message. Neither of these parties gave permission for the text message to be downloaded and recorded. VW was not a party to the communication.

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Privacy

Most Recent Case Event

Volkswagen Infotainment Systems Download Texts Washington Class Action

September 3, 2021

How does Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (VWAG), a car company, get accused of breaking the Washington Privacy Act (WPA)? According to this class action, the problem is certain infotainment systems in VW vehicles. The complaint alleges that when a smartphone is connected to a certain kind of VW infotainment system, it downloads and stores a copy of all text messages on the smartphone. The messages are not accessible to you, and you may not even know they are preserved in your vehicle; but the complaint claims they are accessible to law enforcement and other regulatory or private parties who might want to investigate you.

Volkswagen Infotainment Systems Download Texts Washington Class Action

Case Event History

Volkswagen Infotainment Systems Download Texts Washington Class Action

September 3, 2021

How does Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (VWAG), a car company, get accused of breaking the Washington Privacy Act (WPA)? According to this class action, the problem is certain infotainment systems in VW vehicles. The complaint alleges that when a smartphone is connected to a certain kind of VW infotainment system, it downloads and stores a copy of all text messages on the smartphone. The messages are not accessible to you, and you may not even know they are preserved in your vehicle; but the complaint claims they are accessible to law enforcement and other regulatory or private parties who might want to investigate you.

Volkswagen Infotainment Systems Download Texts Washington Class Action
Tags: Recording Electronic Communications Without Consent, Your Privacy