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 newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

The competitive advantage Australian retailers have over Amazon

With all of the hype around Amazon, many online retailers have been trying to understand how they can compete with the American retail giant.

Joel Milligan

Performance manager, Columbus Agency

How to become the customer experience custodian

The number one objective enterprises give for embarking on a digital transformation is to improve customer experiences with new engagement models, according to IDC’s 2017 global study.

Fear not: It's only a robot

Every time I pass through the automated border controls at the Sydney airport I walk away with a feeling of exasperation on the one hand and relief on the other. Exasperation, because the face recognition technology inevitably always fails to recognise me. Relief, because we seem to be safely years away from the Orwellian reality of states controlling every aspect of our lives; something the media is keenly warning us against each day.

Dan Kalinski

CEO, iProspect Australia and New Zealand

And to add after looking at event pictures plus, observing all AU's visible Blonde Bimbos (think Julie Bishop to this Georgie Gardnerare)...

absolutelyconcerned

In pictures: CMO 50 2017: The who's who of Australian marketing leadership

Read more

CMO 50 2017 announcement mentioning "innovation". I checked date and its November not April so its wasn't an April Fools' Joke. Australia...

absolutelyconcerned

In pictures: CMO 50 2017: The who's who of Australian marketing leadership

Read more

I worked at Momentum when the transformation started way back in 2013 (not 2015 as stated in the article). It was a painfully slow and co...

Jay

How Momentum Energy has transformed its entire business to be customer-led

Read more

Another buzzword thoughtlessly latched onto, without any thought for the implications on the organisations that have to lumber through th...

Tired

Rolling out agile marketing at Deakin

Read more

Useful., also don’t miss out on these 5 features of Adobe Experience Cloud - Visit here > http://www.softcrylic.com/b...

Sunil Joseph

Adobe debuts Advertising Cloud, Experience Cloud

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in