Ford wants guidelines for privacy in cars

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16 January, 2014

In the near future, more and more cars will be equipped with internet connections and location-based services. According to researcher IHS Automotice, the number of cars connected to the internet will increase from 23 million now to 152 million in 2020. This raises questions about the privacy of drivers, as car manufacturers will be able to collect data about drivers. Last week, Ford drew attention to this topic.

Jim Farley, Ford’s executive vice president of global marketing, stated that Ford can use global-positioning system technology to know when car drivers breach the law. “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing. By the way, we don’t supply that data to everyone,” he said during a panel discussion on consumer privacy at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. However, one day later, he withdrew his statements: “I absolutely left the wrong impression about how Ford operates. We do not track customers in their cars without their approval or their consent. The statement I made in my eyes was hypothetical and I want to clear this up.”

Two days ago, Alan Mulally, Ford’s chief executive officer, confirmed that Farley’s comments were inaccurate. “We do not track the vehicles. That’s absolutely wrong. We would never track vehicles. And we’d only send data to get map data if they agree that’s OK to do that, but we don’t do anything with the data, we won’t track it and we would never do that.” he said.

Mulally says Ford is supportive and participating in talks with regulators who are considering legislation on internet connectivity and location-based devices in cars. “It’s just really important that we have boundaries and guidelines to operate.” he says. “We’re in a connected world. So this whole thing about our data, privacy, whatever; there’s going to be a lot of good work done to establish guidelines and expectations. It’s great that it’s happening now.”

It is good that car manufacturers are already thinking about the privacy implications of the new technologies that will become more and more important in the coming years. Let’s hope that more car manufacturers will follow Ford’s example. When privacy is taken into account from the beginning of such new technologies, it is more likely to become successful and it’s easier to gain the trust of consumers, as they can see that their privacy is taken seriously.


Photo: Alden Jewell.

Jonathan Toornstra

Legal Consultant

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