Ford exec says it doesn't collect or share car location data

Automaker contends it only uses data for customer requests and to troubleshoot problems

A Ford executive told U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) that the automaker does not collect or share location data from cars without the operator's explicit permission.

Franken had asked Ford CEO Alan Mullaly for the information after Ford marketing chief Jim Farley told reporters at the Consumer Electronics Show last month that the company has a pretty good idea of a person's driving habits based on data compiled from the navigation system data in their Ford vehicle.

In a letter, Franken asked Mulalley to spell out precisely what data Ford collects via in-vehicle GPS systems and how the company obtains driver consent to collect and share that data. Franken also asked who the information is shared with, how long it's stored and what security measures are used to protect it.

In a letter released by Franken this week, Ford's vice president of government relations Curt Magleby maintained the automaker only collects and uses location information from vehicles to support specific customer requests for service and to troubleshoot problems.

Ford's SYNC is a voice-activated system that provides wireless turn-by-turn navigation, traffic updates and other applications. SYNC is available for the auto maker's 2013 and 2014 models. (Photo: Ford Motor Co.)

He contended that Ford has strong accountability for the handling of any personally identifiable information of car owners, and that it employs strong physical, technological and administrative controls to protect the data.

Additionally, the company allows customers to delete any stored location data by calling the company, he said.

Magleby said that the embedded navigation systems in all Ford 2013 and 2014 model year vehicles store latitude, longitude, and timestamp data in a temporary buffer onboard the vehicle. The location data is typically stored for two to three weeks but is never transmitted off vehicle to Ford or any third-party Magleby said.

Ford's voice-activated SYNC system, which controls audio, climate, navigation and other features, can be paired via Bluetooth to a driver's mobile device, he said. Thus Ford can deliver a variety of other SYNC services, such as turn-by-turn navigation, traffic updates and business searches. A customer can also upload vehicle diagnostic information to Ford via SYNC, when it is paired with a customer's mobile device.

Some of the wirelessly connected applications involve off-vehicle transmission of location data, travel direction, saved charge locations (in the case of electric vehicles) and other information, to Ford and third-party service providers.

In all cases, the applications require specific consent from the vehicle operator via in-vehicle prompts, website user agreements or mobile app agreements, before they collect and transmit data from a vehicle. Ford and third-party service providers do not hold on to any personally identifiable location data collected via these services for more than 90 days, Magleby said.

The only time Ford shares location data with government or with law enforcement is in the event of an accident or in response to a court order.

In a statement, Franken said he was glad that Ford had responded to his question but said that companies need to provide more to information about location data collection practices to consumers.

"This is sensitive information -- and notices to consumers about this sensitive data shouldn't get lost in fine print," Franken said.

The Senator said he will soon reintroduce a location privacy bill he filed last year.

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

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

What happens when the 'market' becomes a 'customer'?

One of the insightful things that has been said to me recently came from an independent consultant working at a major FMCG client. He said: “The problem here is that we have some people who are world-class at marketing to the masses, but they haven’t got a clue about how to speak to a customer.”

3 Metrics to measure B2B content marketing ROI

Content marketing has become a key pillar for marketing departments of all sizes across the world. But how do you measure – and ultimately prove – the effectiveness of the time, money and energy spent on content marketing?

How global brands can connect on a local level

The dot-com boom allowed brands to easily access the global market. Thanks to this increased exposure and worldwide awareness, brands can no longer exist in a local bubble.

Dan Ratner

managing director, Uberbrand

Informative comments , I loved the info , Does anyone know if my assistant could get ahold of a blank 2011 IRS 8804 - Schedule A document...


Telstra unveils fresh digital content media services

Read more

So, the one thing I would say is .. the customer already has a voice, whether you wanted them to have one or not .. and they have a platf...

Paul Gilbert

Why digital strategy equals customer experience

Read more

Appliances online are doing a good job online, but they're still not giving customers a truly powerful online experience in my view. Wher...

Graham Howlett

Navigating the future of omni-channel retailing

Read more

For both businesses and marketers alike who want a digital marketing platform that supports data visualization, integrated analytics and ...


Adobe to bolster analytics capabilities of Marketing Cloud with Digital Analytix acquisition

Read more

Good Content is a crucial part in Marketing ROI. No doubt metrics like sharing & engagement, consumption, & lead generation &...


3 Metrics to measure B2B content marketing ROI - B2B marketing - CMO Australia

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in