Vehicle GPS data sold to police depts, used for speed traps

More motorists are relying on personal GPS units these days to provide in-vehicle navigation and traffic information. Many do not realize, however, that the unit is not only giving data, but is also recording it and sending it back to the manufacturer.

Netherlands-based GPS maker TomTom decided to supplement weak first quarter earnings by selling the collected data to local and regional government offices “to better understand where congestion takes place, where to build new roads and how to make roads safer.” But the company is now finding itself in the midst of a public relations nightmare after Dutch police agencies were found to be using the data to set speed traps.

Vehicle GPS data sold to police depts, used for speed traps

Customers began complaining this week after Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad revealed the situation.

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TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn quickly issued a written apology to customers, as well as an official video statement explaining how the company uses the collected data.

“We are now aware that the police have used traffic information that you have helped to create to place speed cameras at dangerous locations where the average speed is higher than the legally allowed speed limit,” he wrote. We are aware a lot of our customers do not like the idea and we will look at if we should allow this type of usage.”

Goddijn noted that the traffic data collected by TomTom devices is done anonymously and cannot be tracked to individuals. He also pointed out that consumers may opt out of data collection and can disable it whenever they wish.

Both consumer privacy and speed cameras are hot button topic in themselves. It is unreasonable, however, to expect that even anonymous data will not be used in a manner that people disapprove of or is it merely a price to be paid for the convenience of owning such technologically advanced items? Share your views in the comments below.

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