TomTom CEO apologizes for selling speed data to police | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 28.04.2011
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TomTom CEO apologizes for selling speed data to police

TomTom admits it sold speed and traffic data to Dutch law enforcement and says that it will stop the practice. The company has been selling such data as a way to offset the decline of sat-nav device sales.


TomTom has sold millions of sat-nav devices around Europe

TomTom, Europe's largest satellite navigation device manufacturer, admitted on Wednesday that it had been selling speed data gathered from its customers to Dutch police as a way to determine where authorities should set speed traps.

Customers lashed out at the company online after the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad broke the story on Wednesday.

TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn then apologized, saying in a written statement that future licensing agreements would "prevent this type of use in the future."

Goddijn also posted an official video statement to YouTube saying that the company "didn't like," what the Dutch police was doing with the data.

"We will prevent that type of usage of our data in the future," he said. "What I would like to stress, however, is that at no point has the individual privacy of our customers been compromised."

Harold Goddijn

Harold Goddijn, the CEO of TomTom, apologized for selling the data

He added that no data provided to law enforcement authorities could be linked back to individual customers or devices.

On Twitter, Mikko Hypponen, the chief researcher at the Finnish computer security firm F-Secure, wrote on Thursday: "First TomTom helps police to install speed cameras, then they sell a system to warn about them!"

He was referring to the TomTom product "Speed Cameras," which is designed to warn customers about the presence of speed cameras "in 24 European countries."

Consumer sales of TomTom devices are falling

The company released its quarterly earnings report on Wednesday, noting that its sales target would fall to an estimated 1.1 billion euros ($1.43 billion). The company said European and North American market sales declined by 15 percent compared with last year's first quarter figures and that sat-nav device purchases are falling as more people buy or own smart phones with integrated navigation services.

The same quarterly report also said the company had recently launched an online portal for governments to access "historical travel times and speeds for any given road," and that this part of the business had contributed to offsetting other losses.

"We also made our Speed Cameras database available to third parties," the report said. "The latest map release includes coverage of 34 million kilometers (21 million miles) and 103 countries."

It remains unclear how TomTom will continue to make this information available to governments without law enforcement gaining access to it.

Author: Cyrus Farivar

Editor: Sean Sinico

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