M2M FEATURE

April 29, 2011

TomTom Apologizes for Sending Data which was used to Set Speed Traps

Is your TomTom navigation system spying on you?

This week, news broke that police in the Netherlands have been getting a little extra help from another partner in determining where to set up speed traps and where to find those drivers who exhibit poor driving behaviors. And no, the help did not come from a K-9 unit.

Instead, those drivers that have purchased a product from TomTom, the world’s leading supplier of location and navigation products and services, discovered that their GPS was working under cover.

The TomTom was collecting data about the car’s speed and selling it through the government to the police so that speed traps could be set up. This week, TomTom found itself backpedaling and asking for forgiveness, in the same week that the European company released its first quarter financial results, which were less than stellar.

“We never foresaw this kind of use and many of our clients are not happy about it," TomTom's chief executive Harold Goddijn wrote. He also promised licensing agreements would "prevent this type of use in the future."

Normally the aggregated data would be used to tell subscribers on TomTom services: how to route around traffic conditions and give improved estimates of journey time. The sale of data to the government was intended to help it understand causes of congestion and accidents, according to Goddijn.

Reports indicate that TomTom, the world’s leading supplier of location and navigation products and services, decided to start selling traffic data to counter the fact that is has seen a decline in its profits as smartphones are now offering GPS services so fewer people need to turn to TomTom.

TomTom asserted that it kept all the information that it shared about consumers driving patterns anonymous. 

TomTom is not the only company in the hot seat right now as these past few weeks have seen a wave of concern creep over how data collected by smartphones was passed back to the companies controlling them, such as Apple, Google and Microsoft. On Wednesday, Apple admitted that the iPhone records location data about mobile cell masts and Wi-Fi networks, but not individuals. Apple claims, however, that the reason this data was being retained was due to a software flaw that could not be fixed.


Carrie Schmelkin is a Web Editor for TMCnet. Previously, she worked as Assistant Editor at the New Canaan Advertiser, a 102-year-old weekly newspaper, covering news and enhancing the publication's social media initiatives. Carrie holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a bachelor's degree in English from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves


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