Hot on the heels of the furor over Apple’s location databases, personal navigation device giant TomTom is in trouble for selling speed data to police. But both companies have shown how technology firms are too quick to dismiss the worries of their customers.


Steve Jobs may have tried to bat away concerns over the iPhone’s why it’s important to come clean about location data. I suspect it’s time for companies to realize user concerns about location data aren’t simply because people don’t get it. It’s because they have a fundamental right to know how people are profiting from what they do.

  1. It’s anonymized data? Go back to whining about something important – like the narrow range of color choices for the Leaf.

  2. I might have a problem with TomTom helping users skirt the law with their service, but I hardly see how aiding the police in law enforcement is considered wrong. If a user doesn’t want to pay TomTom extra and doesn’t want to get speeding tickets there’s a simple solution: don’t speed.

  3. What happens when there are apps to cut driving time or find parking spots or cheap gas that use aggregated data and the results are open and freely usable. Will they be data-mined anyway?

  4. Don’t speed and it wont be an issue. I thought it was only an american trait to blame anyone but yourself for breaking a rule/law?? Looks like we have company now.

  5. For programmers it’s illogical to think of crowd sourced data as a personal location without more data. For law enforcement it seems to be a good enough approximation of a subjects location.
    Point I try to make:
    Programmers think/program in strict rules, but the normal human mind is far more inquisitive and better or worse at cross referencing and integrating data[1].

    1. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110428070237.htm

  6. These comments make some valid points, but miss the big one Bobbie was going for: this kind of response is just dumb. Why not say, “we didn’t realize how this was going to be used, and now that we know — and have heard how our customers feel about it — we’re going to begin a full reassessment of our data-sharing and data-selling policies. Stay tuned for an open conversation, and thank you for letting us know how you feel.”

    Honestly, it seems like every day brings a new tale of mind-bogglingly tone deaf communications from otherwise great tech companies. You wonder sometimes if there’s a PR team at all.

    1. High tech PR is a waste of money. Most people don’t pay attention, and the ones who do aren’t children.


    Are people seriously that dumb?

    And something that NOT ONE SINGLE SO-CALLED NEWs ORGANIZATION HAS POINTED OUT: TomTom sells an app with speed camera locations.

    And to quote the TomTom website:
    “We genuinely believe that TomTom has a role to play in helping to reduce congestion in countries all over the world. But of course we can’t do it alone. TomTom is but one organisation in a large ecosystem of governments, institutions, businesses and individuals. We hope that by working together we will create better solutions, faster.”

    1. Here, here!

      Technology advances as more data is collected, analyzed, and processed by smart devices. People want the benefit of this in their personal lives, and rational people want public policy to be data-driven as well: “Reality-based community,” etc.

      The data has to come from somewhere.

  8. Wow, more dumb commentary and posturing by tech pundits.

    All this hand-wring about anonymized trilaterization data of cell towers and WiFi hotspots – data that can only be obtained through physical access to the phone or the user’s computer.

    Yet no hand wringing by these same tech pundits about all the cached emails, text messages, call history, voice mails that are available right on the phone without the thief having to jailbreak the damn device.

    It’s like someone going into hysterics that a thief went through his junk mail pile in his home while ignoring that 1) someone broke in this home and 2) all the other personal stuff in the home the thief would have access to in the home.

    But no, we’re supposed to get riled up about the equivalent of a worthless junk mail pile.

  9. wait… two sentences is the ENTIRE posting? really guys? Thats little more than a tweet. How bout a little more meat to this?

  10. I think we shd have the original Groupon (a website where you could collect ppl committed to a cause so u can gather critical mass) – for issues like this.

    otherwise, it will just be some noise that will get lost soon.


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