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Back fire: TomTom sold user data to police, motorists then targeted with speed traps

Consumer Reports News: April 29, 2011 12:48 PM

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Following reports that TomTom had sold traffic data collected from GPS device users to police who then used it to determine locations for speed traps, the company has issued a statement and video in an effort to appease angry customers.

In the video, TomTom CEO Harold Goodijn stresses that the tracking of its devices is voluntary and that customers can choose not to allow it. He also says the data is provided anonymously, and is valuable information the company uses to improve the guidance of its devices, by identifying problem areas and routing customers around them.

TomTom says the company has provided this data to police departments and other authorities to help them identify congested areas for safety reasons and to help determine where road capacity needs to be increased. Mr. Goodijn says TomTom had been unaware Dutch police were using the data to choose locations for speed traps and that the company would prevent that type of usage in the future.

With revenue from standalone GPS devices falling as more motorists turn to their smart phones for navigation, it is not surprising that TomTom is looking for other sources of income. And traffic information that might help identify overloaded roads, danger spots, and help prevent crashes can hardly be looked at as anything but a good thing, particularly if lives are saved--so long as privacy is protected.

Whether it is a good or bad thing to use that data as a tool to capture speeders who may well be endangering other motorists is an interesting question. Is TomTom serving its customers, community safety, or its business demands. Can all three be addressed fairly?

What do you think?

Jim Travers

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