We wrote about TomTom’s addition of various driver-monitoring features to its commercial fleet management sat-nav devices a few weeks ago, where the option was said to be useful for improving driver safety and fuel consumption.

In the Netherlands, however, the police have been using aggregate traffic behaviour data from TomTom’s sat-nav systems to figure out the best places to install speed cameras.

TomTom uses data about driver speed for a particular journey to help determine journey times for a particular route and to avoid congestion hotspots. TomTom also shares this data with the Dutch government and local authorities for similar purposes, including road planning.

However, it was recently revealed that the government had also been sharing the data with the police, who were using the data to identify speeding hotspots — and where best to set-up speed traps.

The revelation prompted TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn to make a statement on YouTube about the company’s data privacy policy:

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The data that TomTom collects does not allow individual drivers to be identified and, it could be argued, that the Dutch government is using it in a positive way to help improve road safety. And, of course, TomTom sat-nav devices (like many others) can also alert drivers about the position of speed cameras on a journey.

Some of TomTom’s customers, however, are less than thrilled about data regarding their journeys being used in this way, not least since it could be perceived as a breach of privacy. As a result, the company has pledged to reconsider the way in which it allows it to be used.

Harold Goddijn also issued a full statement to explain TomTom’s position in more detail:

Dear TomTom customer,

Customers come first at TomTom.

When you use one of our products we ask for your permission to collect travel time information on an anonymous basis. The vast majority of you do indeed grant us that permission. When you connect your TomTom to a computer we aggregate this information and use it for a variety of applications, most importantly to create high quality traffic information and to route you around traffic jams.

We also make this information available to local governments and authorities. It helps them to better understand where congestion takes place, where to build new roads and how to make roads safer.

We are actively promoting the use of this information because we believe we can help make roads safer and less congested.

We are now aware that the police have used traffic information that you have helped to create to place speed cameras at dangerous locations where the average speed is higher than the legally allowed speed limit. 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.

This is what we really do with the data:

  • We ask for your permission to collect historical data. You can opt in or opt out and can disable the data collection function at any time.
  • If you are using a LIVE device, you receive traffic information in real time and you automatically contribute to generating traffic information.
  • We make all traffic data anonymous. We can never trace it back to you or your device.
  • We turn anonymous data into traffic information to give you the fastest route available and route you through traffic jams in real time.
  • We are working with road authorities around the world to use anonymous traffic information to help make roads flow more efficiently and safer.

Our goal is to create a driver community capable of reducing traffic congestion for everyone.


Harold Goddijn

CEO, TomTom

[via CNET]