Jim Farley, chief Ford Motor Co. marketing )
Ford Motor Co. marketing chief Jim Farley on Thursday apologized for a remark he made Wednesday saying the Dearborn automaker tracks customers through in-car navigation devices.
Farley, the headliner at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, said Ford knows where and when customers drive their vehicles, but does not sell that information to third parties.
“We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it,” Farley said, according to a report in Business Insider. “We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing. By the way, we don’t supply that data to anyone.”
Ford on Thursday denounced those comments.
“Ford is absolutely committed to protecting our customers’ privacy,” company spokesman Wes Sherwood said. “We do not track our customers. No data is transmitted from the vehicle without the customer’s express consent.”
Customers give consent when they use a navigation or voice-activated system.
Farley on Thursday apologized in an interview with CNBC. “We don’t monitor, aggregate data on how people drive. I’ve given people the wrong impression, I regret that,” he said.
His comments coincide with a warning from AAA, which this week urged companies to protect consumer data used in GPS systems.
“The data that today can be routinely collected by cars includes some of the most sensitive data that can be collected about a person, including information about their precise location and driving habits,” said Bob Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA.
And a government report released Monday found that major automakers are keeping information about where drivers have been, via data collected from onboard navigation systems. The Government Accountability Office said the automakers have differing policies about how much data they collect and how long they keep it.
Automakers collect location data in order to provide drivers with real-time traffic information, help find the nearest gas station or restaurant, and provide emergency roadside assistance and stolen vehicle tracking. But, the report found, “If companies retained data, they did not allow consumers to request that their data be deleted, which is a recommended practice.”
The report reviewed practices of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. It also looked at navigation system makers Garmin and TomTom and app developers Google Maps and Telenav. The report, which didn’t identify policies of individual companies, found automakers had taken steps to protect privacy and were not selling personal data of owners.
The agency said privacy advocates worry location data could be used to market to individuals and to “track where consumers are, which can in turn be used to steal their identity, stalk them or monitor them without their knowledge.”