What goes through your mind when you’re hiring a car? We’re willing to bet that affordability, quality and convenience are all factors that you will consider – but have you ever thought that you might need to consider your data security as well? With today’s generation of vehicles becoming increasingly connected, it could become a major concern.

According to a report by Privacy International, car hire companies and car sharing schemes are routinely failing to protect sensitive customer data. Apparently, customers are plugging their devices into hired vehicles, but the companies are failing to ensure that this information is adequately protected.

In a test, Privacy International rented a number of vehicles from different companies, each with internet connectivity. And in each case, they found serious security flaws in the system – including the retention of previous drivers’ information. Frighteningly, everything from locations visited to private contacts remained visible long after the customer had returned the car.

Speaking to car hire companies in Europe, the UK and the United States, Privacy International discovered that they were severely lacking in policies to prevent the collection of personal data. In fact, the companies simply referred researchers to their terms and conditions, pointing out that customers are responsible for deleting their own data after using their cars.

However, Privacy International claims that these steps aren’t enough, and that car hire and car share companies should be doing more to look after their drivers.

“This report shows how basic information, which could identify who we are and where we go, is currently left open and accessible to everyone on cars used by popular rental companies,” solicitor Millie Wood from Privacy International wrote. “We are calling on rental companies to make it simple and clear for people to delete their personal information when they return a rental car.”