TomTom GPS Sends Driver Information to Police and Government

May 6th, 2011 | Category: Latest News | 43 comments


And that’s why I won’t be buying a GPS anytime soon.

Outrage over TomTom speed traps for motorists
TomTom Australia says it is planning to sell GPS data collected about its customers’ journeys to road authorities and private companies even after it was forced to apologise when that same data was used by Dutch authorities to set speed traps.

The revelations, revealed in The Australian Financial Review today, have caused outrage among privacy campaigners and lobby groups who believe it is now necessary for electronic devices to come with special stickers saying whether they are going to track your location and be sold to marketers.

But TomTom Australia’s vice-president of marketing, Chris Kearney, in a phone interview, rejected the privacy concerns and claims that TomTom was “tracking” users. He conceded TomTom was collecting real-time “timestamped GPS data” of users’ journeys but said there were no privacy risks because the data was decoupled from the individual users.

Your TomTom GPS does more than just tell you where to go.
Your TomTom GPS does more than just tell you where to go.

“It’s not useful on an individual basis – it’s only useful when aggregated,” Mr Kearney said.

Last month TomTom was heavily criticised for selling data to the Netherlands government, which used it to place speed traps and cameras in the most effective areas to catch motorists. Following public outrage, TomTom’s chief executive, Harry Goddijn, appeared on YouTube to apologise, saying he believed the data would be used to improve safety or relieve traffic bottlenecks.

Mr Kearney said TomTom was hoping to offer the data – which includes journey times, speeds and routes taken – to Australian organisations like the RTA and VicRoads in the second half of this year, although nothing had been confirmed. He said he would have to examine ways of preventing them from using it to set speed traps.

Mr Kearney said the data, which is already being sold by TomTom’s licensing arm in Europe and the US, would also be useful for marketers to see where cars slow down in order to optimise billboard placements. It could also be used by commercial property developers.

“It’s not active for Australia yet although we do have the base data,” he said.

The Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, said companies that sell GPS devices should be very upfront about what they are going to do with information collected from the devices. The ability to opt-out should not be buried in the fine print of a lengthy privacy policy, he said.

“The Privacy Act does not prevent the on-selling of personal information but where this does happen it must be done in accordance with the Act,” said Pilgrim.

“Even though the type of data collected such as speed, travelling times etc. on its own may not be considered personal information, this type of activity does raise the issue of data aggregation where pieces of individual data can be put together to build up a profile.”

In the Financial Review’s story the Australian Privacy Foundation said it would be easy to trace the data back to individual customers, even if TomTom claimed it only used aggregated, anonymous data.

However, Mr Kearney rejected this and said it was impossible to trace it back to individuals. He added that users were asked for confirmation before the data was collected and could opt out at any time.

“A vast majority of TomTom users grant TomTom the permission [to] collect road speed data. In doing this they allow TomTom to better understand road congestion and to deliver a better navigation solution back to users,” he said.

The issue comes after Apple and Google faced heat over their practices of tracking smartphone users’ locations. However, virtually every portable device with the ability to get online – such as Amazon Kindle devices with 3G connectivity – are now capable of tracking user locations.

Data on users is now where the money is in the high-tech world – evidenced by the fact that data-rich companies such as Facebook are being valued at tens of billions of dollars.

“TomTom’s move is really alarming. You think you’re buying a device or using a service, but what you’re really doing is providing details about your life to a company that can then sell on the open market to the highest bidder,” Colin Jacobs of Electronic Frontiers Australia said.

Mr Jacobs questioned whether it was necessary for TomTom to sell user data to remain in business given that customers were already paying for its GPS devices and services.

“I’m starting to think that we’re going to need to label every electronic item with a special sticker saying whether it’s going to track your location and sell it to marketers or not,” he said.

David Vaile, executive director of the University of NSW’s Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, called on TomTom to authorise an “independent technical analysis” of its data collection practices by an outside authority.

“This apparent abuse of trust and export of location data potentially breaches the Privacy Act,” he said.

Mr Vaile criticised companies’ terms of use statements, which “make their customer/owner/data subject agree to permit and authorise everything the service operator ever wants to do with their data and device (including future changes never originally notified)”.

“This only protects them if the customer knows what the operator is doing, and the operator is frank about it – you cannot authorise what you are not aware of,” he said.

“If TomTom have not fully disclosed what they intend to do (for instance, by implying wrongly that the location data is not to be resold; or what is to be resold is not ‘personal information’, in the sense that the user’s identity cannot reasonably be ascertained, when it can be in practice from various device or network tags, logs or metadata), then the use may be ‘unauthorised’, and if so this could potentially open the way to significant criminal liability.”

TomTom’s main rival, Garmin, said it tracked customers’ “location, speed and direction when the device is in use”, and the data was sent back to Garmin when users connected their device to their computer. However, Garmin said it did not sell the data to any other companies and users could opt out.

“The use of this data is limited to developing and providing Garmin customers with improved routing information only,” Garmin said.

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COMMENTS

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43 Comments to “TomTom GPS Sends Driver Information to Police and Government”

  1. felix says:

    Apple now Tom Tom who next ,I guess other companies are doing the same,I am also sure the eye on the dollar is staring at me (no pun intended) be vigilant people!

    • tiarnan says:

      It's just standard procedure really. If they wanted to keep this secret they would and could. The reason these kind of stories are "leaked" is to let you know you're being watched. They WANT you to know.

      They like to see how easily people give in…how willing they are to relinquish their freedoms….

      So they'll tell you theyre spying on you yet people will still buy the gadgets. They'll tell you there's poison in the food but people will still buy the food.

      They'll tell you the RFID chips will be used to track you, but people will still line up with their sleeves rolled up.

      Only through knowledge can we be free, and eventually we will.

      • stacy-nyc says:

        it unfortunately appears that with knowledge thrown in our faces, we are not free…

  2. Black Pearl says:

    Not surprised!

  3. Name (required) says:

    the gps company's including an exclusion for the government's abiltity to use that particular information in that particular way does not necessarily prevent the government from doing so anyway. it might just be a way for the gps company to blame another party, here, the government, when its information is used in that particular way.

  4. josh says:

    I guess they can't wait for the microchip to be released, so they're taking their move already.

  5. only allah should be able to see what were are doin.

    • Joyous says:

      since "allah" is fictional, your point is moot.

      there is only one true living GOD, JEHOVAH, blessed be His Holy Name;

      and He IS in control of all, every minute detail. yes, even of you typing your comment. :D

      get to know Jesus, the King of Kings and LORD of Lords, and you will have no fear.

      The LORD is on my side, I will not fear: what can man do unto me? (Psalm 118:6)

      Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)

      Make no mistake, GOD **is** watching you; every thought, word, and deed.

      • Sovay says:

        That's a disrespectful way to start a debate. Allah is what you call God, to Muslim's that's just one of his names. Make your mind up, is Jesus god or a prophet?

        Anyway, I wish people would actually stop relying completely on god while waiting for something to happen. You're supposed to bring about change (with, if you believe, the help of god), not sit about waiting for a miracle. Though it would be nice.

  6. VC advocate says:

    Whose to tell that they don't have these tracking devices in the cars already(not necessarily GPS), even the very product that u buy at your regular store or supermarket. Maybe it's far fetched but anything is possible. Look at what knowledge has done to us all, acquired by the wrong group of people and it spells D.O.O.M for us. The lord is coming soon.

    • 23 says:

      What about the plastic strips in new bills that can supposedly can tell how much money you have on you and how much you spend. Ive also heard that there is some RFID chips in different types of clothing and the excuse for that one is that it is for inventory what a bunch of bullshit. And Most newer models of cars have low-jacks.

      • tat says:

        ive been in the fashion industry since 1996 and ive never heard of this. reference link would be enlightening though…

    • civ says:

      In the newer model cars they have "black boxes" that actually do the same thing that has recently been publicized…a tiny bit!!!

  7. Faithful says:

    Wow! There is no end to the lengthes they go to monitor us..

    O/T 10 year anniversary 9/11 is 9/11/11 9+1+1+1+1=13

    add that to them saying documents were found in Bin Laden's compound plotting attacks on that day. That's the set-up warning. Sounds like they already have something in place for that day..

    • chuklz da juggalo says:

      hes prolly alive and i bet the gov just says they founds plans

    • Numbers? says:

      I am not that familiar with numerology, but shouldn't it be 11/09/2011 —day/month/year and that would add up to 2021 and that reversed would be 1202. I get lost as to when you break up numbers from single digit to double digit, when to add and subtract, when to change order etc. Where are the rules for numerology?

      • Yomael says:

        The formula in the Illuminati science of Numerology for reducing calendar dates to a single digit number is as follows; day/month/year – (example)18-11-2011. The first step we take is to add 1+8 which reduces to the single number 9. We do not reduce number 11 to a single number because it is a master number (11-22-33-44-55,etc,.) Next we add number 9 to the number 11 to arrive at the number 20, a non-master number which can be further reduced using our formula to arrive at the number 2 (1+8=9+11=20=2+0=2). Now we add the next number in the series which is the number 2 again (1+8=9+11=20=2+0=2+2=4). Now remembering that we do not reduce master numbers to single digit numbers we add number 4 to the number 11 to arrive at the number 15, which reduces to the single number 6. Therefore our equation of the day/month/and year reduces to the number 6, using the Illuminati numerological formula (1+8=9+11=20=2+0=2+2=4+11=15=1+5=6).

        A short definition of the number 6 in Illuminati numerology: The work of creation; the Sun/Son; masculine solar-phallic energy; the animus; egotistical pride is its vice and selflessness (crucifixion) is its virtue; the power of love/sex (abused/selfless), under will – the 93 Luciferian magickal formula.

        In the America the only difference in the formula is that the calendar month is placed before the calendar day which in no way change the formula.

        Thus your date of 11/9/2011 using our formula becomes 11+9=20=2+0=2+2=4+11=15=1+5=6.

  8. Jianei says:

    So basically this is a time-stamping-all-seeing-eye-device? Dang…We have no privacy at all. This is why you do not get comfy with using electronic devices to help you with your everyday life. This is how they control you– through Technology. By making it a NECESSITY for you to have and make a part of you…

    • Zuul says:

      I agree 100% with what your saying. It will get to the point where you will have to choose to be in the New World Order system, or you will not be able to function in 'civilized society'. In the USA- It is almost impossible to function without a credit card- You have to have had debt in order to have a credity score. (see the insanity of this system)

      Most new credit cards are coming out with RFID chips. There are stores experimenting with reading RFID so they know who you are when you walk in the store, how long your there, and what you bought. They can take this info and in the future develop it for you. Cell phones are now developing apps to be able to use the phone as a wallet instead of carrying your cards.

      The future is approaching that No simcard, No barcode will mean No party, No Disco, No beers. Derived from the lyrics of "we want your soul" from adam freeland

  9. WOW says:

    This is why I have a map in my car! If I need it, I pull it out and look at it! lol

  10. zuul says:

    Just another gadget. These recorders are at least voluntary, you have to buy it for the car. Many of the newer cars already have this hardwired in and even have the blackbox. Cell phones, it's everywhere-

    Like the lyrics in this 2003 song "we want your soul" by adam Freeland= Everything starts out voluntary and innocent but later progresses to mandatory with the only option of not fitting in.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvwK-3cQ6gE

    "Your cellphone, your wallet, your time, your ideas

    No barcode, no party, no iodine, no beers

    your bankcard, your license, your thoughts, your fears

    no simcard, no disco, no photo, not here"

    • Sarah Connor says:

      That is a good song zuul – have you seen the video that 911essentials.com put together with it???

      It covers everything we have, and are experiencing, and then some……stimulation overload!!!! But good nonetheless. I wish they would update it through the Obama administration since there is no shortage of material on the matter…….
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYD-HYkf12U
      quote: "This reveals what 911 catalyzed, and more importantly what it's distracting even the truth seekers from acknowledging. This is a crash course in the bitter truth of the state of our society, government and the technological system that's beyond even Hitler's own wet dream."

      • Sarah Connor says:

        I didn't realize they broke it into 2 parts….be sure to watch them both if you choose to. Whoosie.

  11. Maranatha! says:

    I prefer to keep it simple.

    I'm not a fan of all this advanced technology. Society has a way of making you feel, as though, you need the latest gadget that's out there.

    It's gotten ridiculous.

    • Jianei says:

      Yes… I know what you mean. Shoving Apple Commercials down our throats, "If you don't have a Iphone…Well you don't have a Iphone." :P Waste of money.

  12. lu says:

    Fml my girl just brought me a tom tomf

  13. Godozo says:

    That's why I've started keeping myself around the speed limit. Who knows what the electronics and Computers in the cars are keeping track of…

  14. chark says:

    well, Yah duh

  15. Firebrand says:

    People do NOT need to use these electronic gadgets as they consume life and time needlessly, are designed to collect information and location data on your personal movements (iPhone4 as VC pointed out and that Rabbit thing from http://www.karotz.com) and have nefarious uses.

    Best thing to do is get a non-GPS phone, use a map, only use the internet for minimal things and basically switch off the TV.

  16. Fly says:

    did you see at the end the clock turn to 111???!!!

  17. Yami says:

    Honestly, if I could drive without a GPS, I would…but I have no other way of knowing where anything is. I just always have failed at directions…I can't look at street signs, I recognize everything by what it's next to.

    If I'm going somewhere new, I have nothing to go by so I have to use a GPS.

  18. monknickers says:

    I happen to own a TomTom.

    I noticed it could track your speed while on a trip. A little eerie. While they're no doubt useful, I prefer to use a map and have several in my car at all times. Only for trips.

    I don't mind collecting the data to create speed traps (speeding kills, after all) and I guess knowing where you last were could help you out if you got in trouble far from home, but I know there'd be much more to it than just that and it creeps me out. Why would the government need to know where every last one of their citizens was? They shouldn't care so much. Yikes.

  19. Godozo says:

    I've been hearing commercials from certain insurance companies offering reduced rates for drivers. In return you must put a computer in your car that records how (and how much) you drive. (the idea being that if you prove to be safer than "the mean," you get cheaper insurance)

    – – – – – – – – – –

    Fits the cycle perfectly. First we get the "criminal/necessary" uses – remember the stuff on Michigan police "voluntarily" siphoning the information from the cell phones? We now know it's not just that. And, of course, it comes from earlier work on criminals and pedophiles (those stupid ankle bands).

    Now we're getting the incentivized users. Those out to save $$$, want to be told where to go without having to figure it out themselves, and those who like the idea of pumping out a map that just shows what they want/need, at the detail they want/need. Add in apps to locate your friends and tell you what's going on nearby, and that's a lot of people falling in love with the Droid or iPhone.

    Soon, the stuff will become mandatory for the rest – the better insurance companies will soon require it, and GPS will soon become mandatory, either by law or by automatic inclusion (and run even when you don't use it, as the GPS will be integrated into the CPU that runs the car.). Already all Cell Phones have within them GPS-friendly capabilities that allow others to pinpoint their whereabouts, whether they want to or not.

    Insert this stuff in the skin, and you got the soul of the Mark Of The Beast (though I still think there will be an outward symbol placed on the skin, that way they'll only turn it on when needed – like when buying groceries or at a police checkpoint).

  20. Anonymous says:

    Apple and Google are being brought to Capitol Hill over privacy issues, they may want to addf acebook to the list.

    • Godozo says:

      The senators are worried, which is a relief.

      The DOJ, on the other hand…love it, and want more.

      NOW I'm worried.

  21. MindControlledPuppet says:

    This is why I like VC. Social media articles aside you can really learn about things non-conspiracy going on around us.

  22. bi says:

    i can't believe there is a contraceptive that is injected in to your arm in a chip and women opt for this method. there was a big issue in the UK recently because some of the chips failed to excit in to the skin correctly and failed. guess they gottah practice getting it right some how….. so not so sure there would be an outwood sign on the skin as some one suggested above.

  23. Dreamy says:

    Saw something on Foxtel the other night which freaked me out as to the extent that we are all being watched. Firstly the camera's – there's 1 camera to every 10 ppl in America. Next the RFID chips – these are EVERYWHERE! in your GPS, Toll Scanners, new tyres when you buy a brand new vehicle, Iphones etc etc. But there are ways you can protect your privacy. For night time, put lead lights in your caps – night cameras won't be able to see you, they will only see a bright light.. don't buy the new flash gordon electronic thingys like iphones, gps's etc – we survivied without them before – we can again. Grow your own veg/fruit – and start it now.. but most of all. get the hell out of USA & England!! Move to the pacific islands and find your freedome there. Big Brother is not only watching you – he is monitoring your every move!

  24. LVB says:

    If all they were doing was helping the police to write some more speeding tickets, it wouldn't be a huge deal, but this is obviously part of a much larger agenda that is the most evil and dangerous kind of social engineering. Little by little, people are exposed to it, and piece by piece they will come to accept it as "the new normal".

    People in most advanced countries have already been desensitized to being tracked and monitored, and I find that many people respond to news like this and the iPhone tracking and logging their every move in ways like this: "Hey, I'm not doing anything wrong, so I don't really care if they do it."

    This uses the very effective psychological tactic of shame, in making the person feel as though they are "paranoid" if they are (legitimately) opposed to this and other invasions of their privacy.

    People will often tolerate and accept unacceptable ideas rather than confronting those ideas on the basis that they are wrong, because we have been so thoroughly conditioned to avoid confrontation and the stigma, both real and implied, that comes from feeling isolated and therefore not "going along" with what has been sold in mass media as what we're told all of the other reasonable people think is no big deal.

    You don't want to be an outcast like one of those paranoid crazy people do you? And hey, you must be doing something wrong and have something to hide if you are that worried about your privacy. Right? Wrong, I say.

    There are many proven and very effective psychological tools at work in social experiments like these, which manipulate people into classic "double bind" situations where we are being automatically positioned to feel uncomfortable and odd if don't "go along with the program".

    I think we have to face facts here and realize that no matter what Apple, Tom-Tom, Google or Microsoft may tell us in their prepared press releases (carefully designed spin control) about their involuntary collection of the ongoing real-time location profiles of citizens being kept "anonymous" by them, there is no such thing as "anonymous" in a world where this kind of technology is literally everywhere, 24/7.

    If it can be tracked and recorded, you can be 99.9% sure that it IS – and there is no reason I can think of why these huge corporations can or should be trusted to care about your privacy, because they don't. Clearly, they have shown us with their actions that they will do all this and worse, without ever telling us or receiving our consent.

    The only thing that might change this is if people stop buying their products in massive numbers, and I don't see that being very likely at this point – the addiction is just too far along by now. Only when it hurts them badly in terms of profits would these huge corporations even consider changing what they've already been getting away with, and honestly, I don't even think that would do it. They would adjust, change tactics, and just continue what they want to do in a more secretive way.

    If you trust them with knowing exactly where you are at all times, both physically and virtually (knowing everywhere you go on the web), I think you are doing so at your own peril, and this is definitely setting the stage for a future that none of us want to happen.

  25. GPS For Car says:

    Whether the information collected from the GPS is for data collection or aggregation, the owner needs to know and has the rights to disallow it.

  26. stigelo says:

    Hence the unquenchable appetite of those devil worshipping NWO contoll freaks to collect as much private data as possible, for example by equipping all future cell phones/gadgets with GPS…