Skip to main content

TomTom sold customer driving data to police

tomtomApple isn’t the only one tracking your location: GPS manufacturing TomTom admitted it has been collecting user data to help police in the Netherlands track down drivers breaking the speed limit. Dutch publication Algemeen Dagblad reports that the devices were monitoring customers speeds and that this information was being sold to law enforcement officials, who would then set up speed traps. It’s become a viable business for TomTom, which has struggled to compete since the introduction and inundation of smartphones featuring GPS applications.

In a statement on the company site, TomTom CEO Harold Goddjin apologized for the privacy violation (you can watch it in video below), while also trying to defend his company’s actions. He claims TomTom believed the cooperation with police could increase road safety, and that the company was unaware up until now that authorities were using the data to place speed traps. Goddjin also says “We are aware a lot of our customers do not like the idea and we will look at if we should allow this type of usage,” and explains users can disable the data collection function. “Our goal is to create a drive community capable of reducing traffic congestion for everyone,” Goddjin says. Funny, we thought TomTom’s goal to was to get users from one place to another, not babysit and consequently tattle on drivers.

It should be understood that the issue here isn’t so much TomTom systems collecting data as the sale of it is. The devices aggregate customers’ driving and traffic conditions in order to provide commute estimates and alternative routes as accurately as possible. There is no surprise that a navigation device is tracking your location – but users did not expect that information to be stored and sold.

While the incident appears, at the moment, to have exclusively affected Dutch drivers, it should definitely make any TomTom GPS users out there wonder. It’s just one more sign that if you have a device that detects your location, you can be nearly 100-percent certain there are ulterior motives for that information. The iPhone, Android devices, and Windows 7 Phones are all grappling with their own location-tracking controversies, and it feels like this is just the beginning. It doesn’t seem terribly crazy to think that many devices that include GPS features could find themselves in a similar situation as TomTom: As the market grows and becomes flooded with new, better, more popular hardware, they may see sales fall. And if or when this happens, companies will have extremely valuable consumer data to fall back on. Consumer data that the TomTom incident has reaffirmed people are willing to pay for. Of course this doesn’t exclusively apply to location, and you can only imagine the wealth of personal information out there that companies would be willing to auction off in a financial crisis.

Editors' Recommendations

Molly McHugh
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Before coming to Digital Trends, Molly worked as a freelance writer, occasional photographer, and general technical lackey…
How to get new emojis on your iPhone or Android device
Emoji reactions on Google Messages running on OnePlus 11.

Text messaging has quickly become the default form of communication on smartphones. Sure, you can give your buddy a call to update them on your plans for the weekend, but it's not quite as quick and streamlined as a simple text. And combined with the ever-growing library of emojis available on iPhone and Android, it's easier than ever to ensure your tone and true meaning are received loud and clear by your recipient.

Read more
How to turn off the always-on display on the iPhone 15 Pro and 14 Pro
The Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 14 Pro showing the screens.

Apple first debuted its always-on display for iPhone with the iPhone 14 Pro, and it returns with the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. Though many people enjoy the always-on display on their iPhone, others feel that it consumes enough power to affect the battery drain throughout the day. So, eventually, Apple added a way to disable the always-on display if you don't want to use it.

Read more
How to use iOS 17 FaceTime gestures (and what they look like)
Video reactions in macOS Sonoma, with the balloons effect in use.

iOS 17 brought a number of new iPhone features and optimizations to the table, and one of these tweaks adds a few cool layers of entertainment to your FaceTime experience. It’s called FaceTime gestures, and once it’s set up correctly, you’ll be able to send 3D animations to your friends and family during FaceTime video calls. You’ll even be able to trigger the animations with physical gestures!

Getting your phone ready for action doesn’t take much time or effort, but we put this guide together to walk you through the process nonetheless. 
How to make a FaceTime gesture in iOS 17

Read more