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Police Use Data Shared by TomTom GPS Users to Set Targeted Speed Traps

Companies that ask you to allow them to collect information about your use of their product may have good intentions, but sometimes purchasers of that information may have other plans.

For example,when you sign up for the TomTom GPS device service, the company asks you if it is OK if they collect "travel time information," and most users agree to this. TomTom says it uses this information to "create high quality traffic information and to route you around traffic jams and get you to your destination as quickly and safely as possible." So far, so good, right?

TomTom also sometimes makes this information available to local governments and authorities so that authorities can "better understand where congestion takes place, where to build new roads and how to make roads safer." Again, no problem.

Last week, however, TomTom's CEO Harold Goddijn wrote a letter to the company's customers letting them know that, in at least some areas, local police have used the data in an "unforeseen" way that may make TomTom users wish they had never agreed to share information: to place speed cameras where the shared TomTom data shows average speed is higher than the legally allowed speed limit. In his letter, Goddijn writes that TomTom "fully understands some of customers do not like this and we will amend the licensing conditions to stop this type of usage in near future."

PC Mag reports that TomTom started selling traffic data to governments earlier this year as a way to supplement weak earnings. After a Dutch newspaper reported that Dutch police were using the data to target speed traps, however, customers became upset, prompting Goddijn's letter.

Posted by Bruce Carton on May 3, 2011 at 04:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)


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