Gee, P.S.–Don’t forget to cover your tracks

Last weekend, Dear Abby called attention to a problem that hadn’t occurred to me before, and is worth taking note of:

DEAR ABBY: I bought a used car with a navigation system last week and noticed that the previous owner’s information was still embedded in the system. Abby, I had that man’s home address, the addresses of his friends, his bank, his workplace — every place he had gone.

Please inform your readers that if they sell a car with a navigation system, they should first delete all of their information. Car dealerships should also be aware of this and, perhaps, erase the information from the system as part of their vehicle inspection. — JENNIFER IN LEE’S SUMMIT, MO.

DEAR JENNIFER: Your letter raised some eyebrows among me and my staff, so we canvassed some of the used car dealerships in the Los Angeles area. They’re already aware of it. Those we spoke to stated that they are not legally required to delete information from a navigation system, and all agreed that the seller is responsible for removing the information before selling the car.

I am sure many readers will thank you for the warning.

At first, I was startled to learn that the dealership wouldn’t clear the navigation system, just as they’d clean the car and bang out any dents before attempting to sell it.  I agree with Jennifer–it seems to me this should just be part of the process.

It seems probable that many car owners will forget or not know how to truly clear all their information from a built-in navigation system.  Wiping the memory of any such systems that pass through the lot seems like a basic act of integrity and housekeeping that any scrupulous re-seller should undertake.

Wait…integrity?  Scruples?  On the used car lot?

Right.  It didn’t take me long to realize that, unlike cleaning and repairing, there’s no financial incentive for a  dealership to do this.  They can still sell the car for a higher price because it has navigation–it makes no difference to them whether or not a roadmap (literally) of someone else’s life is exposed.

So, caveat venditor: cover your tracks, because no one else will do it for you.

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