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

The evolving role of the CMO

They say that “change is the only constant”. It’s fair to say that in the 20 years I’ve been in marketing positions, the role of the CMO has changed completely.

Tim Tez

Chief product and marketing officer, MetLife

Transform your marketing analytics to outperform your competition

As digital and offline brand experiences diversify, more customer data is becoming available to marketers. At the same time, the number of tools available to analyse this data is increasing rapidly. Leading marketers are taking advantages of these shifts and transforming their marketing analytics practices to outperform their competitors.

What CMOs get wrong with content marketing

Content marketing: It’s everywhere you look, and it’s a proven component of an effective marketing strategy. And yet more than half of all marketing professionals struggle with a lack of internal content creation resources.

Aaron Agius

Co-founder and managing director, Louder Online

It's the biggest disappointment for me because i mostly use whatsapp and separate it from my facebook account. I use high level encryptio...

amiron carro

Facebook will use Whatsapp users' personal data to target ads

Read more

I have consistently the worst customer experiences from AUSPOST. I regularly send packages and letters via registered post service, and t...

Winnifred Antoinette Mok

Aus Post's customer chief: CX is about convenience, control and choice

Read more

Such a great new you've shared with us I really agree with the records you shared as this is true that this report may able to quantify t...

Lucy Eva

Report: Mobile app time dominates Australian smartphone usage

Read more

It is heartening to see that the South Pole Group use a Balanced Scorecard to monitor progress. In such a complex area where communicatio...

Clive Keyte

How South Pole Group is tapping media intelligence for customer conversion

Read more

Having had the pleasure of working with Kim, she has one of the strongest strategic minds I have ever come across. She has the ability to...

Anonymous

Helloworld scraps CMO role

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in