The Netherlands: TomTom, a navigation device maker, apologised for supplying driving data collected from customers to police to use in catching speeding motorists. The data, including historical speed, has been sold to local and regional governments in the Netherlands to help police set speed traps. As more smartphones offer GPS navigation service, TomTom has been forced to compensate for declining profit by increasing sales in other areas, including the selling of traffic data, Dutch newspaper AD reported.
Now, TomTom apologised, saying it sold the data believing it would improve traffic safety and reduce bottlenecks, The Associated Press reported. “We never foresaw this kind of use and many of our clients are not happy about it,” Chief Executive Harold Goddijn wrote in an email sent to customers. He added that licensing agreements in the future would “prevent this type of use in the future.”
With the revelation, TomTom became the latest company to raise privacy concerns about location data it holds on its customers. Over the past week, questions have been raised about Apple, Google, and Microsoft and the location data stored or tracked by the iPhone, and Android and Windows Phone 7 devices, respectively.
TomTom has said that any information it shares has been anonymised, but customers shouldn’t take such assurances at face value. Past claims about the anonymity of data sometimes turn out to be horribly wrong – witness the debacles involving AOL’s sharing of 20 million searches and the release of Netflix users’ viewing habits. It’s not hard to fathom a scenario in which data supplied by TomTom could be used to figure out sensitive information about its users, such as where they live and work.