Did you pair your phone with a rental car? Don’t forget to wipe your data

If you've paired a device to a rental car, take a moment before you turn it in and delete your data. THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Your phone knows many things that can make a rental car feel like home — your music, your location history, your phone log.

But while you’ll likely forget your rental after you hand the keys back, it may not forget about you.

If you connect a mobile device to a rental car, “the car may also keep your mobile phone number, call and message logs, or even contacts and text messages,” says a warning published yesterday by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The warning was written by Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, a U.S. federal government lawyer who is an expert on identity theft.

READ MORE: The rise of the connected car and what it means for your safety and privacy

WATCH: Privacy advocates are sounding the alarm about new car technology that collects a wide variety of information from drivers. These so-called “connected cars” are linked to the internet and provide services like navigation, parking assistance and entertainment. Jeremy Hunka reports.

Here’s what you can do:

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  • Don’t charge your device from the car’s USB port — data may be transferred automatically. Use the cigarette lighter instead, with an adapter (if there is one).
  • The rental car’s infotainment system may offer you choices, when you first connect, about what kinds of information it can access. Pay attention — you may be able to restrict it to a bare minimum.
  • You may be in a hurry when it’s time to return the car, but take a moment anyway to delete your data. The infotainment system’s settings menu should be able to show you how to find your device in the system and remove it. If not, there should be instructions in the manual.

Schifferle didn’t say so, but common sense says that the same logic applies when you’re selling your car, if you’ve paired a mobile device to it — much more so, since a car you’ve had for years will know much more about you than a rental.

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