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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  1. icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 10 Jan 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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