TomTom Apologizes For Selling Speeding Data To Dutch Government

from the privacy? dept

TomTom, the troubled GPS navigation device maker, was forced to quickly apologize after news reports came out about how the company had sold aggregate data on driving habits it collected from the devices to the Dutch government, who then used that data to figure out where to set up speed traps and speed cameras. TomTom claims they thought the data would just be used for improving traffic safety, not for speed traps (though, I would imagine that some would claim that speed traps are a way to improve traffic safety). TomTom's CEO Harold Goddijn didn't exactly come off as convincing in saying:
"We don't like that because our customers don't like it... We will prevent that type of usage of our data in the future."
Of course, they could just not like it because it's intrusive. Then they might have thought about it before selling the data. And it's not clear how they can sell the data and only make sure that it's used for one purpose and not others.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2011 @ 3:43pm

    "Sorry we got caught" at its best.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), 28 Apr 2011 @ 3:50pm

    Like other things that could be used for evil...

    "We're just collecting your porn surfing habits to help make your porn experience better and certainly not to help build a divorce case against you."

    "We're just collecting data on your online activity at work to help us target our demographics better and certainly not to get your slacker ass fired."

    "We're just collecting Pokemon because they're so damn cute and certainly not to catch them all."

    "We're just collecting expired food products in hopes of making your store safer to shop at and certainly not to build a class action lawsuit against your non-date-reading asses."

    "We're just keylogging everything in an effort to prove the Dvorak's superiority and certainly not to build a database of credit card numbers and associated information."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rick, 28 Apr 2011 @ 3:50pm

    Huh? I thought dedicated GPS receivers were exactly that - receivers. How is the data making its way to TomTom to be sold?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2011 @ 4:10pm

      Re:

      I think some people have GPS's that allow others with similar GPS's to see where you're going. They have features that let you sync more than one GPS together. Not sure if that's what this is referring to though.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      That Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2011 @ 4:20pm

      Re:

      You can stick anything in a EULA, and no one ever reads it. I think from the article these were for units that had live updates on traffic conditions, but it is possible there were other avenues.

      I wonder how much data they collect vs the iPhone/smartphones that have all of the press right now.

      see Mike I told you I could submit nonbittorrent stuff :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Some Other Guy, 28 Apr 2011 @ 4:21pm

      Re:

      Some more recent GPS navigation devices are internet-connected over the mobile data network (for live traffic updates etc.) Or non-live-connected GPD devices may just store the details of routes taken and upload it when updated on a PC (so that the data can be aggregated for better navigating around traffic, not for selling your speeding behaviour to the government at all, honest)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 29 Apr 2011 @ 3:34am

      Re:

      Perhaps their software was developed by Apple engineers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 28 Apr 2011 @ 4:51pm

    Will Tom Tom show us the data they sold? At least then we will have the opportunity to slow down for the speed traps. It's for public safety you know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      VMax, 28 Apr 2011 @ 9:29pm

      Re:

      Apparently they'll sell it to anyone. Then they'll sell the info about anyone who requested the same data. It's a good racket. Wish I'd thought of it first.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DCX2, 28 Apr 2011 @ 6:07pm

    Important points

    A few things that I think are important. The stories make it sound like TomTom was out to get individual motorists.

    1) No individual got a ticket because of the data TomTom sold. The aggregate traffic patterns were used to select different places for speed traps by one of the governments.

    2) TomTom's intention was to help increase efficiency, for instance by pointing out areas of congestion. This is not such a bad idea.

    I'm not saying it was right, or smart. I'm just saying that they aren't Sony.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      That Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2011 @ 6:28pm

      Re: Important points

      This data was provided to gain an alternative revenue stream with data that was "anonomized" to help with "congestion", the problem being it was then used to create speed traps that in turn was used to help try and ticket people who had the anonymous data collected from them.
      I do not think anyone feels they were singled out in that manner, but there is also no way to prove that some speed traps were not built to catch people who had data saying "I speed here often" sold.
      TomTom handed out data, they may or may not have actually informed the customers of this clearly, for one reported beneficial use and it was used in other ways.
      TomTom was clearly not concerned/aware that the general public would object to this sort of data farming of them, even after the other high profile "cases" of it being done by other industries.
      It appears they were more concerned with revenue and less concerned with "Will this really piss off our customers if they find out?" They got that answer quite clearly.
      Given the number of smart devices able to do the same thing in the market, having a "black eye" for selling off data and not showing how it was anonomized leaves questions for lots of consumers.
      There are different ways to try to make the data anonymous and the NetFlix competitions make is really clear some methods are not good enough.

      TomTom who it seems was having problems in the marketplace before, have just made their problems worse with consumers only remembering that TomTom sells data to outside groups.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    abc gum, 28 Apr 2011 @ 6:20pm

    "I would imagine that some would claim that speed traps are a way to improve traffic safety"

    and others would counter that speed traps cause slow downs which result in wrecks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Colin, 28 Apr 2011 @ 7:43pm

    On the other hand

    I have a Tom Tom that is able to warn me about "safety" cameras. I wonder how that deal would mesh?
    BTW I love my Tom Tom. It enables my cell phone hands-free (even has voice dialling) via blue-tooth, is an MP3 player, a compass and works damn fine as a GPS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ComputerAddict (profile), 29 Apr 2011 @ 5:18am

    No Different than

    I live in a semi-rural area, This kind of behavior of the police happens all the time, although instead of collecting the data from a reliable 3rd party source they setup speed traps based on residents calling in and complaining the people are speeding to much on east st. Enough residents call and complain and the police will hammer that street for a week trying to get motorists to slow down (And sure they get some extra revenue out of it).

    This just seems like an obvious progression in the art of policing a community. Get data that is more accurate, a larger sampling, impartial, etc. I for one don't see this as nearly as big of a deal compared to iPhone's location tracker.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    abc gum, 29 Apr 2011 @ 6:02am

    Why don't the cops go find some real criminals :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    wayout, 29 Apr 2011 @ 6:26am

    You know there is a simple solution to the police speedtraps...DONT SPEED...man could it get any simpler..yep it's revenue enhancement because they know to many idiots have lead feet...through no fault of theirs..I live by a school and know that on any given day the police will be running speed traps and drive accordingly, but they always have someone stopped because that big speed limit sign apparently doesnt apply to them...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Apr 2011 @ 10:07am

      Re:

      it's still bs. so when the cops are out of your rear view, you're back to speeding? you're right though, there is always some sucker who doesn't know the "rules".

      around my way, the speed limit on one street was raised from 25 to 30.. 2 lane road, houses on either side, children at play, all that. i have not seen any cops doing radar since the change. they used to sit at the bottom of the valley every week (morning and afternoon rush hours) catching people coasting down the hill picking up speed.

      what the hell? i guess a 40mph in a 30mph doesn't generate revenue like a 40 in a 25 does. the same dangers and hazards exist in both cases. it is so transparent as to what they are doing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        wayout, 29 Apr 2011 @ 11:53am

        Re: Re:

        "it is so transparent as to what they are doing"

        I agree it is, (yes 15 over is more money) but again, its a simple fix, dont speed, I have gotten my share of speeding tickets over the years for being stupid, I dont blame the speed traps, just my own lead foot. We have raised some of our highway speed limits to 70 & that isnt fast enough for quite a few, 80+ seems to be the new 70...
        We all gripe that they should be out catching criminals, so what, speeding isnt breaking the law now, or is it that now those doing the complaining are now lumped into the same boat as other "criminals" who broke the law..

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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