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TomTom sold user data to police, motorists then targeted with speed traps…

Following reports that TomTom had sold traffic data collected from GPS device users to police who then used it to determine locations for speed traps, the company has issued a statement and video in an effort to appease angry customers.

In the video, TomTom CEO Harold Goodijn stresses that the tracking of its devices is voluntary and that customers can choose not to allow it. He also says the data is provided anonymously, and is valuable information the company uses to improve the guidance of its devices, by identifying problem areas and routing customers around them.

Is anyone surprised by this? You have to admit, this is really clever. Get GPS data and just send out some cars to wait where everyone is speeding. When data is collected about any of us, it will be sold to the highest bidder, we are the ultimate renewable resource. Some will argue speeding is bad and this is a good use, but if most customers knew this ahead of time, would they allow this data to be used? My guess is no. TomTom has since said they’ll make sure the data is not going to be used like this again.

From our (e)mailing addresses, our clicks, to our networks of friends — we are product. I’m sure there were pages of legalese in the terms of conditions you needed to tap to operate your GPS, but no one reads those. I think we’re going to see some type of “bill of rights” for our data pretty soon, but only if we want it. Today my iPhone has an update so it doesn’t store my locations for the last year.

Post up your thoughts about this in the comments!

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. Drew Harwell says:

    I’m okay with this.

    I have no problem with the efficient enforcement of safety laws, and the disclosure is voluntary and anonymous.

    1. Anonymous says:

      hi drew, i felt the same way at first… if “disclosure is voluntary and anonymous” – but they didn’t give an option for customers to know or opt out. at least not in a reasonable way. i think everything should be opt out by default and it companies will need to do a better job about the opt in process, for example – tomtom should offer a $10 rebate if you opt in to this, or some incentive – i think the default “opted in” days are over for a lot of companies.

      1. migpics says:

        I don’t think they’re over Phil. Facebook does this all the time. And you only hear about an opt out option from the media.

    2. Anonymous says:

      You clearly have a very naive view of “safety laws” and their uses. Here’s a clue. In California, which is essentially bankrupt, the government invested hugely in more highway patrol units. Why? Because it makes them money. In an ideal world, the speed laws would reflect what speeds are actually safe, in the real world, they are designed to reduce road wear to reduce infrastructure expenses and collect tax money into the maw of the state.

      What Tom Tom has done was to make money by turning in their fellow citizens to the tax collectors. I, for one, will never by anything made by Tom Tom.

  2. Yes, tracking is voluntary. Yes, we can see that sharing tracking data with Tom Tom might help them determine problems with their products and improve them. But it is jack-assery of the first degree to use either these as an argument that Tom Tom has some right to sell your personal data to law enforcement agencies to help them increase their effectiveness in ticketing people for speeding. There isn’t any customer of Tom Tom who asked them to do that, or would conceivably ask them to do that.

    1. migpics says:

      This may be a stretch here but is this akin to ‘using your likeness for an exploitative purpose?’
      Can we argue that this information falls under ‘personal attributes’ and therefore is illegal to profit from it. After all, where you go and what you do is a personal attribute, unique to yourself.

      http://www.citmedialaw.org/legal-guide/using-name-or-likeness-another

  3. Darian Lewis says:

    Won’t do it AGAIN? Are you kidding? You violate the privacy of people to target them, and speeding traps accomplish nothing but raising revenue, while hiding the intent and then attempt to “appease” customers by saying you won’t do it again. I do hope people will learn and not buy Tom Tom products. Yes, there will always be scumbags selling people to the highest bidder – not doing it, or at least having the balls to tell people BEFORE you do it and allow them to opt-out, that’s a business that has some integrity. This is yet another “please give up your privacy and we’ll make it safer for you” garbage. You get neither in that deal.

  4. ejolson says:

    Well, it’s not like the shared data was used directly to write tickets, only to set up speed traps. As long as they’re not secret hidden traps like on Dukes of Hazzard, I’m fine with that. If you never connect your GPS RECEIVER to the internet, they won’t get that data.

  5. Tim Newsome says:

    Does anybody know what they sold? My understanding is that TomTom aggregates customer data into average speed on road segments, not into a list of #24601 drove 35mph here. If so, I don’t mind, and if I didn’t have to run Windows to share my data with them I would.

  6. migpics says:

    I am really sick and tired of companies hiding behind the vail of ‘allowing customers to opt out.’ What happened to asking customers if they want to opt in?
    I blame the phone book companies!

  7. Anonymous says:

    This stinks. Tom Tom sells data to the police so they can relocate their radars.
    So who knows where the new radars are? Tom Tom, of course.
    And what’s the only navigator that has this updated data? You guessed it.
    Money both ways.

  8. jesse calkin says:

    Speeding laws are such a crock of shit. The limits and laws are set to make money, not to make roads safer.

    FWIW I drive maybe 40 miles a month, and cycle the majority of the time.

  9. Big says:

    I personally like hearing them admit this, it makes me sound less crazy although my friends have pretty much settled on calling me Burt Gummer.

  10. Scott says:

    Would anyone feel better if, instead of being used to determine locations for speed traps, the data was used to justify changes to speed limits, based on sound transportation engineering principles?

  11. Anonymous says:

    If you are not the Consumer, you are the Product.

  12. I want to remind that Apple is not only collecting GPS coordinates, they are also collecting speed data “for traffic reporting” and can sell it to the highest bidder just as well. It’s inevitable that this information will be re-sold and abused. Prediction: In the near future auto insurance companies will want your traffic data along with your credit score…

  13. Anonymous says:

    Speed enforcement is just another way to levy a tax without asking for the vote of the citizens.

  14. Cj Keeler says:

     If the government weren’t so concerned with having the ability to control everyones every move this would never be an issue.  What ever happened to this being a free country anyhow, when in fact its common knowledge that “Freedom isn’t Free”.

  15. Hey,nice post.Well written.I will appreciated your writing skills.GPs is really a great vehicle tracking system. Thanks for sharing this informative article with us. Its great.I like this.Keep sharing with us.

  16. Very usefull information.Thank you very much for this.

  17. ben van gogh says:

    It is not Tom Toms fault that most people are to stupid or lazy to read their contracts.

  18. ben van gogh says:

    It is not Tom Toms fault that most people are to stupid or lazy to read their contracts.

  19. ben van gogh says:

    It is not Tom Toms fault that most people are to stupid or lazy to read their contracts.

  20. Traditional newspapers, as we used to know them, have stood back, twiddled their thumbs and watched their revenue base decline in recent years. Well, what can they do about it? Increase cover prices, increase revenue streams via advertising sales or become part of the electronic media, but then how do newspapers change old habits

  21. Traditional newspapers, as we used to know them, have stood back, twiddled their thumbs and watched their revenue base decline in recent years. Well, what can they do about it? Increase cover prices, increase revenue streams via advertising sales or become part of the electronic media, but then how do newspapers change old habits

  22. Low costs ensure that online newspapers become more accessible and “user friendly”, without all of the confusion that some news services create by padding “newspaper space” or padding “air time” on radio news services and TV news updates, with sometimes useless information.