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

Why app engagement must be personalised

Research from Nielsen late last year reported Australian smartphone users over the age of 18 spend 33 hours per month in apps, and a mere four hours per month in browsers. But what does it take to actually maintain an app customers will engage with?

Rob Marston

Head of Airwave, A/NZ

Customer experience investments more vital than ever

The global commodity slump has hit Australia in the last few months. Companies that obsess over these developments might be tempted to cut spending on customer experience (CX) programs. Here's why that's a a terrible idea.

Harley Manning and Thomas McCann

Research leaders, Forrester

Managing brands in a digital world

With digital integration at the core of customer management, many marketers have been questioning whether the principles and approaches to branding are fundamentally different in a digitally led environment.

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Rob - great article. Here at Pure Oxygen Labs we could not agree more. When considering retail mobile apps deep linking is woefully unde...

Scott

Why app engagement must be personalised - Mobile strategy - CMO Australia

Read more

Project Leader?? Kim Portrate is one of the most ineffective leaders I have ever had the displeasure of meeting. She single-handedly cost...

Anonymous

Helloworld scraps CMO role

Read more

What tripe. This article conveniently makes no mention of her lies and bullying tactics and how she had placed everyone off-side with her...

Anonymous

Helloworld scraps CMO role

Read more

You mentioned cashback sites giving "immediate earnings" for transactions through their site. Cashback sites can take a couple of months...

RG

Are points-based customer loyalty programs on the way out?

Read more

Hi Jody,great post thank you. I think you're right in regards to the marketing evolution underway right now. I think it's incredibly inte...

Clinton Mancer

Tackling the skills shortage of the modern marketing age - Data-driven marketing - CMO Australia

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in