Ford VP Claims The Company Is Tracking Everyone's Driving Habits... Then Denies It

from the just-great dept

At a time when we're learning more and more about the vast level of surveillance by the NSA, Ford's global VP of marketing and sales, Jim Farley, made some monumentally stupid comments at CES recently, claiming that the company knows every driver who breaks the law, thanks to GPS devices in cars. After realizing how bad that looked, he insisted he only meant "hypothetically" in talking about the kinds of things that could be done in the future.

Of course, in between point A and point B, you have to imagine someone at the NSA rushed down to the FISA court seeking a Section 215 bulk "business records" order from every American car company for "mere metadata" on every driver in America, right? Just joking. Maybe.

Of course, even if Farley wasn't accurate in his initial statement, it's close enough to true anyway, since so many people carry mobile phones in their pockets, and those are easily tracked as well. In many cases, people are willing to get the benefits of location information, but we don't have nearly enough transparency or knowledge about what's being done with that information, or given the right to control or limit how that information is shared or used.

In an age where so much information is shared with companies, those companies need to move to solutions that involve much greater transparency and controls. Companies making use of your information need to start being upfront about the type of data they collect and how it's being used. The problem with the idea of Ford keeping track of which one of you has a lead foot isn't in that this is possible. Everyone knew it was already possible. It was just been the assumption that no one would actually do it. And that's the kind of thing that needs to change. Companies want to make use of our data, and sometimes it's for very useful purposes -- things that we're happy to get in exchange for the data. The problem is that too often, how the data is being used is hidden from us, and the "benefits" are not clearly laid out. Furthermore, once the data is gone... it's gone, and there are little to no controls about how it's used and shared.

Whether or not Ford in particular is tracking how fast you drive is barely the point. These days, someone is tracking how fast you drive, and as a driver, you should know who it is, and be able to limit how that information is used.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), Jan 10th, 2014 @ 2:30pm

    Oh yes they are...

    many states are working to finish replacing tool booths with "toll by plate" wherein they just snap a pic of your plate as you go by and mail you the bill...so they do know where you are driving and exactly how long it takes you to get from toll booth to toll booth. They could easily do the math and throw in a speeding ticket with the toll bill. ANY set of plate readers could be used this way. I know they aren't tracking cars yet on other roads as I regularly hit 100+ on back roads down here in Florida and I haven't gotten a bill or a visit from those wonderfully friendly guys in blue uniforms...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2014 @ 11:55am

      Re: Oh yes they are...

      " They could easily do the math and throw in a speeding ticket with the toll bill"

      Toll collection is usually outsourced, there is a lack of jurisdiction. I remember an auto rental outfit that tried to charge its customers for speeding. Their arrogance was challenged and defeated, several times.

      In addition, the "toll by plate" businesses have been accused of fraudulent billing practices. They have sent bills to people who never used the toll road, this was probably due to incorrect reading of the plate(s). And they have sent bills late, causing the toll road user to be charged late fees.

      The toll road, bridge, etc is stupid and needs to go away.

       

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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 10th, 2014 @ 2:45pm

    "Of course, in between point A and point B, you have to imagine someone at the NSA rushed down to the FISA court seeking a Section 215 bulk "business records" order from every American car company for "mere metadata" on every driver in America, right? Just joking. Maybe."
    -
    Thats not funny. :)

     

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      silverscarcat (profile), Jan 10th, 2014 @ 3:03pm

      Re:

      I can just see it...

      NSA sub-boss: Shit! We forgot the cars! Flunky A and Idiot B! Get down to Ford and get all that Meta-data!
      Flunky A: Yes sir!
      Idiot B: Can we stop for donuts?
      NSA sub-boss: On the way back.

       

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    Michael, Jan 10th, 2014 @ 2:51pm

    Just like in the movies (tossing out the phone) - officially no longer crazy.

    Just like in the movies (tossing out the phone) - officially no longer crazy.

    Unfortunately it seems there is now also another reason to grab a computer-less car aside from 'EMP resistance'.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2014 @ 3:14pm

      Re: Just like in the movies (tossing out the phone) - officially no longer crazy.

      actually at this point it might be an idea to go "all in". what I mean is to use as many services as possible and create as much noise as you can. basically drown them in pointless and most importantly random information.

      people generating no, or rather considerably less information, in this climate might be easier to track then people generating lots of them. I mean, they already know you exist, you leave traces on cameras all over the place, you use services, you use money, and all of that generates metadata, as well. but lacking any traceable electronic data may make you more suspicious to them.

      but when you generate lots of data, it doesn't look out of place and the few things they might be interested in can be drowned in worthless info.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2014 @ 9:50pm

        Re: Re: Just like in the movies (tossing out the phone) - officially no longer crazy.

        attach multiple GPS devices to random animals , GPS in a bottle .. scratches head ...can you clone your gps tracking number

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Jan 12th, 2014 @ 11:26am

          Re: Re: Re: Just like in the movies (tossing out the phone) - officially no longer crazy.

          There's no such thing as a "GPS tracking number". GPS is one-way only -- from the satellites to your GPS receiver. Any tracking information has to be sent to the trackers some other way, such as through the cell phone service.

          What you could do is clone your SIM and attach the cloned phones to the animals...

           

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    Anonymous, Jan 10th, 2014 @ 3:05pm

    Maybe next Ford will come out with a car that can Fix, Overhaul, Repair itself Daily.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Jan 10th, 2014 @ 3:29pm

    Problem isn't "transparency", Mike, it's the TRACKING.

    As with Google. Anyone with even piratey brain knows it tracks you everywhere, in as much detail as possible, keeps it at least years, collates all to identify you, and presents it all to gov't on demand for free.

    Your focus on "transparency" is typical corporatist spin that if can just coax people to "agree" to give up privacy, then it's perfectly okay and nothing bad could ever come from it, that corporations can be trusted, and they'll never want more, and so on, just the sheer corporatist tripe that I KNEW you'd revert to.

    Your last line is about people controlling this data, but what's your position on the data that Google gathers against my will? Is it okay if Google sells it? State a position for once, sonny, not blathering generalities.

    The phony deal that evil people (and gullible fools) try to force on us: You can't have the benefits of technology unless give up all privacy.

    11:26:56[m-677-2]

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2014 @ 3:30pm

      Re: Problem isn't "transparency", Mike, it's the TRACKING.

      Google is not gathering anything against your will. Grow up.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2014 @ 4:18pm

        Re: Re: Problem isn't "transparency", Mike, it's the TRACKING.

        Lying about it wont correct the matter. Google is insidious - and you fucking know it.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Jan 12th, 2014 @ 11:27am

          Re: Re: Re: Problem isn't "transparency", Mike, it's the TRACKING.

          Simply accusing people of lying is pointless. You need to present some kind of evidence that what they said was false, and that they knew it was false. I don't see what was false about that statement.

           

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        Rob, Jan 11th, 2014 @ 9:21am

        Re: Re: Problem isn't "transparency", Mike, it's the TRACKING.

        Really? Google doesn't collect things when explicitly told not to?

        http://www.zdnet.com/google-pays-17m-to-settle-safari-cookie-privacy-bypass-charge-7000023366/

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Jan 12th, 2014 @ 11:29am

          Re: Re: Re: Problem isn't "transparency", Mike, it's the TRACKING.

          Nobody is saying to rely on Google to stop tracking you when you ask. What we are saying is that you avoid tracking by not using Google's services and blocking traffic to Google's servers. If you do that, nonsense like the Safari thing -- which is indeed an example of Google doing a Very Bad thing -- won't impact you at all.

           

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    Adam (profile), Jan 10th, 2014 @ 3:32pm

    OnStar

    I am actually surprised that OnStar hasn't been mentioned in any of the recent NSA scandals recently. They collect a lot of data on your driving and location and in the past they sold it to third parties so I'm sure they would be giving it to the government.

    Maybe that insider document is just in the backlog of Snowden files.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2014 @ 12:01pm

      Re: OnStar

      They also listen in on conversations in the vehicle without your knowledge.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Jan 12th, 2014 @ 11:31am

      Re: OnStar

      Since OnStar has given access to the OnStar cell phone built into the system to allow law enforcement to eavesdrop on conversations inside the car, it's all but certain that they also allow law enforcement wholesale access to their database.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2014 @ 3:37pm

    There is no Google in the article ootb. Have another report vote for being off topic.

     

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    sorrykb (profile), Jan 10th, 2014 @ 3:49pm

    Of course, in between point A and point B, you have to imagine someone at the NSA rushed down to the FISA court seeking a Section 215 bulk "business records" order from every American car company for "mere metadata" on every driver in America, right?

    If that someone drives a Ford, apparently we wouldn't have to imagine it -- We could prove it. Or, at least, the NSA could.

    In all seriousness, if Ford were keeping all the GPS data, I'd imagine the NSA would already be hoovering it all up to add to their collection. In fact, we might just be a few Guardian articles away from finding out.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2014 @ 4:00pm

    Ford does it = BAD
    NSA does it = BAD

    Google does it = MONEY IN THE BANK for masnick.. (therefore GOOG)..

    its so funny you could have easily replaced the word FORD for Google and it would be exactly the same, except of course Ford does not pay TD..

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2014 @ 4:15pm

    More unnecessary car parts to remove, I suppose.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2014 @ 11:25am

      Re:

      Actually, you go to that second extra box of fuses, find out which controlls onstar and remove it permanently. You will likely see warning light prompting you to check engine or something like that. Just igonore.

       

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    toyotabedzrock (profile), Jan 10th, 2014 @ 9:00pm

    Soon they will deny warranty coverage because you drive in a way they disagree with.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2014 @ 12:04pm

      Re:

      "Soon they will deny warranty coverage because you drive in a way they disagree with."

      What - driving in patterns that look like man sausages all over town?

       

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    Mike, Jan 11th, 2014 @ 7:27am

    For every positive aspect of new technologies there are opposite, negative aspects as well. If it can be used for good, it can be used for bad as well. To say, "We just never thought it would be used that way" is quite naive. Our reliance on technology will always leave us vulnerable to it!

    Didn't some really smart guys say that technology would be the end of mankind? ;-)

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2014 @ 12:06pm

      Re:

      "Didn't some really smart guys say that technology would be the end of mankind?"


      Not sure I would call the luddites smart

       

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    PWGuy97, Jan 11th, 2014 @ 10:17am

    Can't accept terms of service

    It's getting to the point that I am nearly unable to participate in this era of society.

    I do not agree with the terms of service from most manufacturers and thus don't join their product, buy their product, use their products which essentially excludes me from participating in today's society.

    I won't even own a smart device and reading how many people have had their information misused or critical information stolen based on one-way terms of service which don't include privacy rights or regulated security requirements (am looking at you Apple and the lack of security regarding IOS and banking).

    On a positive note, this leaves me more time to read paper books which -for now- at least aren't tracking my eye movement and looking for ways to sell me something I didn't want to begin with.

    I was looking at Ford for my next purchase - still many years away - but sadly I won't be considering any of their offerings and might just invest in upkeep on my older model vehicle until I am no longer able to drive. Guess I just became a light rail supporter thanks to Ford.

     

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    Daemon_ZOGG, Jan 11th, 2014 @ 11:28am

    "Ford VP Claims The Company Is Tracking Everyone's Driving Habits..."

    Most automobile companies either already quietly do this, or have the ability to do it. And that's besides the fact that ford vehicles are total crap. Ford is the same as Nokia or micro$0ft.. the only thing they were ever good at is selling icecream to eskimos. You can roll a turd in powdered sugar all you want. But, in the end, it's still just a turd. };P

     

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    Just Sayin', Jan 11th, 2014 @ 10:44pm

    Welcome to the future, Mr Masnick

    One of the big take aways from Techdirt is that "if it can be done, it will be done". Well, technology is moving quickly (faster than the life of a patent, imagine all that innovation!) into all sorts of places you wouldn't expect it.

    Every car made now (except perhaps some converted ox carts in China) has on board computers and diagnostics. OBD and OBDII are pretty much standards of the automotive universe, and have been for some time. Part of the design of these devices are systems to track and record engine settings, especially if there is a failure or program. To aid diagnostics, they record all sorts of engine parameters, and then turn on the dreaded check engine light for your enjoyment. Yes, they do monitor engine revs, the speedo, braking force, and all sorts of other things.

    One of the systems hooked up is the airbag system, which must be monitored to assure that it is armed and ready. It also signals if it has been deployed. Many companies snapshot all parameters when that happens, so they can be read back. Newer boxes actually have a "rolling" memory of the last 5 or 10 seconds that a car is running, which is frozen at the moment of impact hard enough to deploy the airbag. For what it's worth, On Star uses this to trigger a call to their operators as well as per their commercials.

    That black box information, just like on an airplane, is used more and more for criminal cases, for civil cases, and for insurance companies.

    It's a good use of technology that removes a certain amount of doubt in the case of an accident. That the car can tell you it was running 60MPH at the time of impact, with no brakes on, in what was a 30mph zone can be key to everything from criminal liability to insurance claims - and even medical treatment.

    So far cars have not been governed or speed limited, but you can picture a point where this could happen. Self driving cars will almost certainly have to have a long memory of their exact positions and actions to avoid product liability issues, and it's pretty reasonable to think that the same technology will end up in other cars.

    Moreover, it's a good use of technology. I am a huge fan of cars, I love fast cars, I love to drive - but I understand that there are risks that come with speed, especially relative speed to other cars. Even as a big car fan, I cannot imagine the real use for a car that can do 200mph on the street, but they are sold. You can imagine at some point, that will become an issue that will require regulation.

    It's very likely that at some point, you will see GPS related speed limiters on cars, which may limit your speed on surface streets or only allow a certain maximum speed no matter what, as a public safety issue. Technology allows for it, so by Techdirt standards, it will happen.

     

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    Bruzote, Jan 12th, 2014 @ 9:33am

    The other data you've all ignored.

    Nobody here is even discussing the *mandated* (for all cars from 2007 on) transmission of key PII - your car's geolocation as transmitted by wireless TPMS (Tire Pressure Management System) gauges. These can be detected using roadside receivers, so once your tire code is known, your vehicle is forever ID'd.

    FYI - ID'ing is so easy - just correlate license plate photos at tolls with record of tire IDs recorded at the same time near those tolls. Only very rarely would you need more than two separate toll passages of a license plate to find its corresponding tire IDs. The exception would be when another car went through the tolls at the same time as you during *both* toll passages, then you would need to find a third point in time.

     

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      Bruzote, Jan 12th, 2014 @ 9:35am

      Re: The other data you've all ignored.

      To be clear, I meant your geolocation can be determined based on the location of your transmitted signal. Your tire gauge obviously does not (yet) have a built-in GPS. ;-)

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2014 @ 10:19am

      Re: The other data you've all ignored.

      " your vehicle is forever ID'd. "

      Yeah, the TPMS device never needs replacement does it.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2014 @ 11:29am

        Re: Re: The other data you've all ignored.

        > your vehicle is forever ID'd. "

        >> Yeah, the TPMS device never needs replacement does it.


        or can't have fuse removed for good.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2014 @ 9:44pm

    darryl and out_of_the_blue just can't stand it when due process is enforced.

     

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    Jonathan, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 12:04pm

    Creepy

    I don't like this at all. They have no right to track my driving habits, whether I am driving slowly, poorly, quickly or otherwise.

     

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