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TheStreet Open House

GM Thinks It's OK to Spy on You - Outrage

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- General Motors (GM - Get Report) learned some bad tricks from its former government overlords -- like the idea that spying on its customers is acceptable.

It's bad enough that we have a U.S. Department of Homeland Security watching our every move, but Et tu, Brute?

I'm talking about GM's OnStar service, which the company uses to track the behavior of its customers and -- until it faced political heat also monitored the activities of GM car owners who didn't want the OnStar service. Now headlines about GM's Big Brother flap are rightly zipping around the Internet.

OnStar backpedaled on the policy to continue tracking customers who turned off its service, but only after getting smacked around by a litany of lawmakers including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, who called the policy "one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory."

GM's pseudo apology to customers yesterday explained that they only wanted to remain connected to their customers so that they could provide urgent information about natural disasters, recalls, etc. GM also acknowledged that it wanted to spy on former OnStar customers because "it would have helped in planning future services."

Nice spin, guys. It almost sounds like you care about us.

If you look closely at the OnSar privacy policy on the official Web site, you'll learn that they also like to "share" information about you with your "car's maker, your dealer, your satellite radio or wireless service provider, your fleet company or your rental company" and may also "share anonymized information with third parties for various purposes."

"Share" in this context is a euphemism for "sell" -- this data has great value for marketing and sales and GM no doubt wants to earn a few bucks through these channels.

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