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.

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Comments on “Ford VP Claims The Company Is Tracking Everyone's Driving Habits… Then Denies It”

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TheResidentSkeptic says:

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…

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

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…

out_of_the_blue says:

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.


John Fenderson (profile) says:

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.

sorrykb says:

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.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ford does it = BAD
NSA does it = BAD

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

For clarification:

1. Google does not pay us. Full clarification: we are currently experimenting with Google’s ad offerings, something we haven’t used at all in years, but other than that, we receive no revenue from Google, nor did we receive any in 2013. In 2012, Google sponsored one small event we held, which represented less than 5% of our revenue). To suggest that we’re biased towards Google because of money is wrong and uninformed.
2. Everything I said above concerning transparency, privacy and information control I think applies equally to Google as well. Perhaps more so since they have so much information.
3. I regularly have been and will continue to be critical of lots of companies, including Google.

etc etc etc. There’s plenty more like that.

Basically: you’re wrong. You should try not being so wrong. It makes you look silly.

JMT says:

Re: Re:

“its so funny you could have easily replaced the word FORD for Google and it would be exactly the same…”

That’s the same claim you make in EVERY post! Just replace Ford with whoever the article is actually about, and bam, your latest zero-credibity Google attack. When are you going to get some new schtick to bore us with?

Mike says:

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? 😉

PWGuy97 says:

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.

Daemon_ZOGG (profile) says:

"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

Just Sayin' says:

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.

Bruzote says:

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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