Franken presses Ford on location data collection practices

U.S. Senator cites recent statements by Ford exec that the company can keep track of driver habits

A U.S. Senator Tuesday pressed Ford for information on its in-car data collection practices, citing recent boasts by a marketing executive at the automaker that it can monitor drivers via integrated navigation system.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn) asked Ford CEO Alan Mullaly to spell out precisely what data the company collects via in-vehicle GPS systems and how the company obtains driver consent to collect that data. In a letter to the Ford chief, Franken also asked for information on who the data is shared with, how long the it's stored and what security measures are used to protect it.

The letter was written after Ford marketing chief Jim Farley told Business Insider at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week that Ford has a pretty good idea of a person's driving habits from the navigation system data in their Ford vehicle.

"We know everyone who breaks the law. We know when you're doing it," Farley told Business Insider. "We have GPS in your car, so we know what you're doing. By the way, we don't supply that data to anyone."

The company later downplayed those remarks and insisted that it doesn't track customers or transmit data from the vehicle without the driver's permission.

A Ford spokesman later told Business Insider that the GPS systems in its cars do not routinely ping the vehicle's whereabouts to the company. Farley also claimed he had left "absolutely the wrong impression" about how Ford operates.

Franken's letter to Mullaly cited Farley's remarks.

He noted that while Ford had retracted its claims about tracking drivers via their GPS systems, the company has made contradictory claims about its information sharing practices. Franken said he is seeking clarification from Ford executives.

Franken's letter also referenced a recent Government Accountability Office report on how car companies secure location data collected from in-car navigation systems.

The report is based on a GAO survey of the country's largest automakers, including Ford. It noted that all automakers surveyed disclosed to customers that they collected and shared de-identified location data. However, in almost all cases the reasons given for collecting the data were vaguely worded or not exhaustive.

Each of the companies surveyed said they obtained consumer consent for collecting the data and offered limited controls over how much data was collected. However, companies that retained the data offered consumers no options to delete that data at a later date or to prevent it from being used and shared in future.

"I believe this is too little transparency," Franken said in his letter. "American drivers deserve better -- and Mr. Farley's statements underscore this problem."

Franken's letter is another sign of the increased attention that lawmakers are paying to privacy and security threats posed by wireless enabled devices and systems in automobiles.

In December, Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), sent a series of detailed technical questions about the vulnerability of modern vehicles to wireless security and privacy threats to CEOs at 20 major automaers around the world, including Ford, Toyota, Volvo, BMW, Chrysler, Mercedes and Nissan.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His email address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile/wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

How to keep your B2B marketing job for the next 5 years

B2B marketers are in the hot seat. As the customers’ buying journey shifts online, B2B marketers must exert influence and build trust with their prospects in a new way.

Collective Intelligence: The power of smarter, quicker team thinking

When we think about the bottom line in business, the immediate jump is fiscal performance. But if you're serious about future-proofing your business, then you need to be ready to think outside the box of traditional success measures.

Janine Garner

Founder and CEO, LBDGroup and author

Can the data-led creative please stand up?

The data land grab is full steam ahead. Media agencies, brands and tech players are all scrambling over one another to develop data and insights capabilities and to own the space.

Dont' count this resource out when considering the best forms of on line advertising.check it out here: wheredoifindsolutions.com (...

Nanci Felthauser

3 lessons for marketers from the most creative digital ads for 2015

Read more

I like their campaign about empowering startups and seeking out small business based on set criteria that they think will change their co...

Hitesh Parekh

Can brand builders do well and do good?

Read more

This is a really an innovative idea on the part of Vodafone to test the customer satisfaction level.The Vodafone is a leading telecom g...

Schultzy beckett

Vodafone uses data analytics to enhance the customer journey

Read more

Great article. Interactive videos will be the next big thing for engaging B2B & B2C audiences. IV videos with a questionnaire style f...

Revolution Video

3 lessons for marketers from the most creative digital ads for 2015

Read more

Chris, nice collection of tactics. I believe these are valid points of focus and action, and most marketers and many sales professionals ...

BCA

How to keep your B2B marketing job for the next 5 years - Marketing leadership - CMO Australia

Read more

Sign in