Is our 2006 Honda Civic spying on us?

[UPDATE: Looks like Ford is even admitting to the practice of spying on customers.]

Last week my wife’s Honda Civic had its maintenance light come on letting us know it was due for an oil change.

Today we received a letter from Honda informing us the maintenance light was on, and urging us to schedule maintenance if we had not already done so.

How the frak did they know? Does the Honda Civic ‘phone home’ and report status periodically to Honda? If it does, how is that information being used, stored, and more importantly protected? It chills me to the bone to think that my car is ‘phoning home’ an unknown quantity of information about our driving habits. Might be time to trade it in for a less modern vehicle.

-Chris

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4 Replies to “Is our 2006 Honda Civic spying on us?”

  1. Honestly, my first guess would be that they have some kind of thing where only a licensed Honda dealer can shut the light off, and they turn it on automatically after some amount of time.

    So they’d know the light is on because you haven’t been into a dealer after X months.

    That’s just a guess, though.

    1. Actually, it is quite easy to reset the oil change counter that generates that maintenance light. It’s documented in the manual. There are laws that prevent them from locking in service to their dealers.

      As for knowing I haven’t been to the dealer in X months… I have been getting the oil changed at the dealer, and so they have a pretty good estimate of when I need to bring it in again; in fact they printed the date on a sticker they put on the inside of the windshield. It’s two months in the future, so I have reason to think this letter is not ‘estimated’.

      The technology level necessary to have a car ‘phone home’ is getting cheaper and cheaper. Cars that have the ‘shark fin’ antennas, like ours, are already wired for bi-directional communication add-ons like on-star. If I were an automaker, and I could put a $5 chip in cars that could ping back maintenance status over existing cellular systems, and I could use that information to invalidate potentially expensive warranty repairs, I might find it a successful cost-cutting measure. Maybe I am paranoid, but its only a small step from technology that tracks to technology that controls.

  2. Wow, that is scary. I just, as in last Saturday, purchased a 2003 Honda Civic. I love it. It has just the tech I want. No on board phone or on-star. No lo-jack. Just the basic power package. I am good with that.

    I too would be pissed if that happened. I would be interested to know just, exactly how they got that information. Let me know, if you will.

    1. I plan on asking. If I don’t get answers I like I am going to trace the antenna wiring back and disconnect it. I’ll just have to burn myself a few CDs to make up for the loss of radio.

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