The Issue

In May 2011, Dutch GPS manufacturer TomTom acknowledged that it had given the Dutch police anonymous location data from its customers. The location data included travel time, speeds, and routes taken. The Dutch policed used the data to decrease congestion, upgrade transportation infrastructure, and strategically place traffic cameras where there appeared to be many cases of speeding or accidents. After TomTom faced heavy criticism from its customers, it modified its policy and contract language to keep police from using the information for traffic cameras.

Despite the controversy it raised, a week later TomTom Australia announced that it was giving away GPS data collected about its customers’ journeys again – this time to road authorities and private companies.

TomTom’s Response

Soon after the announcement, TomTom’s drew public ire and criticism for its sale of user data. Caught by surprise, CEO Harold Goddijn released a YouTube video addressing the issue. While TomTom insisted that it did nothing illegal, they acknowledged that it was an unpopular decision. “We never foresaw this kind of use and many of our clients are not happy about it,” chief executive Harold Goddijn wrote in an e-mail to customers.

Yet TomTom Australia treated the matter differently. Soon after selling its customer data to private companies, its vice-president of marketing, Chris Kearney, rejected the privacy concerns. Though he acknowledged that TomTom was collecting “timestamped GPS data” of users’ journeys, he insisted that the data was all anonymized and could not be traced back to particular drivers. Nevertheless, privacy advocates have been skeptical.

For sources, see our References page.

TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn