Last week GPS giant TomTom apologized publicly after it was revealed that the company had sold user’s data to police in the Netherlands. The GPS data was then used to help police set speed traps for motorists.
Because sales from TomTom’s GPS devices have really slowed down, the company has been looking for other ways to maintain revenues. The company has been selling users’ GPS data to several different places, not just the Dutch police.
Chief Executive Harold Goddijn said that he was not aware that the GPS data would be used in the battle against speeding motorists and said the company would change its licensing agreements to stop the practice.
Unfortunately this news comes as no surprise to most people. There’s money to be made from knowledge about where each of us is at any given moment. A lot of money. That data can be converted into contextual advertising revenue, used to create compelling new services or improve the value of existing products.
Recently corporate giants such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all been taking heat for the way they handle users’ GPS-based location data. Lawsuits have been filed and now the US Federal Government is thoroughly investigating the way these companies are using their customers’ data.
Most people believe that citizens should have the right to know who owns and has access to our personal GPS location data. At what point has an individual’s rights to privacy been violated? The line has to be drawn somewhere, so we are waiting for lawmakers to make a decision.