In the modern world of smart grids, smart phones and even smart cars, the Internet can connect two seemingly unrelated objects together.
Take Nissan’s 2011 Leaf. Thanks to a built-in wireless modem, the all-electric car can both receive and send data through Nissan’s Carwings portal, allowing you to remotely check up on your car’s state of charge and predicted range, view energy consumption and driving economy statistics, set the GPS and turn the climate control on and off.
And let someone, somewhere know exactly where you are and how fast you’re going - but only if you want them to.
While we’re sure that last feature isn’t necessarily intended as a way of spying on Leaf owners, that’s certainly the spin being put on it by most websites after intrepid tech-head Casey Halverson discovered a documented, yet widely ignored feature of Nissan’s Carwings system that transmits data about the car’s speed and location (among other things) every time it accesses an RSS feed using the Leaf’s built-in rss-to-speech system.
2011 Nissan Leaf
Why does the car do this? Is it to spy on you? Is it to catch you speeding?
No. In short, the Leaf’s system transmits information about your location when retrieving a feed to enable the website sending the information to customize the information it is sending in order to make it more applicable to you. For example, a site supplying weather information could use the information sent from the car about its location to send you the local weather for where you are, rather than a general forecast for your entire state.
Or a traffic site could provide you with up-to date traffic information. The possibilities are endless.
Yet still, the horror that Nissan could still be ‘spying’ on Leaf owners is being spread, complete with the terrifying fact that you can’t turn this feature off.
Or can you?
You see, after nearly 3 months behind the wheel we’ve noticed something about the 2011 Nissan Leaf. Not only is carwings itself completely optional, but you can still use the carwings system without taking part in its social media oriented ranking system.
Carwings could put an end to speeding? Unlikely
Opting out of making your car data public is right there in the settings from the car’s Carwings setting screen, along with the automatic download of RSS information.
And there’s the clue. On the 2011 Nissan Leaf, you can set the interval that the car automatically connects to Nissan or another server and downloads an RSS feed, such as your economy information.
But just like Carwings itself, you can opt out of automatic downloads. Found in the Carwings setting screens, you can tell your Leaf to never automatically download information. And if you want to make sure no severs know where you are and how fast you’re going, the answer is even more simple.
Don’t visit any RSS feeds from your car’s touchscreen display.
Does the 2011 Nissan Leaf send information about your car’s location and speed to third party sites? Only if you visit them.
Our advice? Treat your Leaf’s connection to the Internet like any other - only visit trusted sites and if you’re worried about a security breach then don’t use the functions offered by the car’s on-board Internet connection.[AllCarsTech]