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Tom Tom Sells GPS Info To Dutch Cops 204

jfruhlinger writes "As smartphones with GPS capabilities wear away at the dedicated GPS market, vendors like Tom Tom need to find new revenue streams. Tom Tom decided it would be a good idea to 'share' (i.e., sell) aggregated data from their users to Dutch law enforcement. The company claims they assumed that the data would be used to improve traffic safety and road engineering, and were shocked, shocked to discover that instead the police used it to figure out the best places to put speed traps."
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Tom Tom Sells GPS Info To Dutch Cops

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  • Repost (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThePolkapunk ( 826529 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @01:48PM (#36002240) Homepage
  • Re:Repost (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @02:14PM (#36002576)

    Repost indeed.

    Also, just to recap the actual events...

    TomTom asks users if they would like to share 'anonymous' (since leaving place X and returning there every weekday is kinda indicatory) traffic information with TomTom in order to improve services. The fine print says that TomTom can also make this information available to 3rd parties.

    One of those 3rd parties is a research company. They take datasets and provide condensed reports based on them.

    One of the reports they generated revealed either A. where people were speeding or B. simply what speed people were driving. Not individual users - just a breakdown of numbers. N data points, X% of those N > 120kph, Y% between 100kph and 120kph, etc.

    This report is what the police apparently use to decide that if every day there's 1,000 people going 140 where they're only supposed to go 100 (arguments of whether 140 is safe etc. is another story), they should place some speed traps there.. be that to make a safer situation, as a cashcow, or simply because they felt like annoying the speeding drivers.

    That's it. There wasn't a direct line from TomTom to the police. In addition, that same information is used by the government to determine if perhaps an extra lane should be added, or whether the speed limit should actually be increased (it's usually environment/noise regulations that limit roads to a certain speed).

    Now TomTom, pretty much pandering to their audience (the ones that download speed trap location POI's being pretty much the majority) by saying they're going to adjust the terms of use of the datasets so the police couldn't do what they did anymore.

    I have no idea how TomTom thinks they're gonna do that, given that they have no direct relationship with the police -and- the data can be used for perfectly good things as well. Tell the research company they can only sell on the distilled information to the government if they include a clause that the police can't use this information to place speed traps?
    What if one of the research companies simply dumps the average speed on major roads as a picture or google maps data on the internet. Now what - that picture/google maps information needs a clause saying "If you're a cop, you can't use this information"?

    Hence the 'pandering to their audience'. There's pretty much nothing they could actually do to halt the use of information for purposes that their customers aren't too keen on, other than simply not selling the data at all.

  • Re:good (Score:3, Informative)

    by PoopMonkey ( 932637 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @02:34PM (#36002800)

    My dad worked with those engineers. What the parent posted is true. The majority of the speed limits you see are not what the engineers give for a road. The possible exceptions are neighborhoods.

  • Re:Again? (Score:4, Informative)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday May 02, 2011 @04:54PM (#36004332) Homepage Journal

    Evidence suggests that no matter what the posted speed, people will drive exactly as fast as they feel safe driving. Unfortunately, they may feel safer than they actually are and that's where the trouble starts. Measures that make a road feel less safe inevitably cause people to slow down. The only thing the posted limit changes is the size and number of tickets.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.