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Ford Exec: 'We Know Everyone Who Breaks the Law' Thanks To Our GPS In Your Car 599

An anonymous reader sends this report from Business Insider: "[Ford VP Jim Farley] was trying to describe how much data Ford has on its customers, and illustrate the fact that the company uses very little of it in order to avoid raising privacy concerns: '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 anyone,' he told attendees. Rather, he said, he imagined a day when the data might be used anonymously and in aggregate to help other marketers with traffic related problems. Suppose a stadium is holding an event; knowing how much traffic is making its way toward the arena might help the venue change its parking lot resources accordingly, he said." Farley later realized how his statement sounded, and added, "We do not track our customers in their cars without their approval or consent."
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Ford Exec: 'We Know Everyone Who Breaks the Law' Thanks To Our GPS In Your Car

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  • Herpin' the Derp (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:53AM (#45915715)

    Farley later realized how his statement sounded, and added, "We do not track our customers in their cars without their approval or consent."

    Approval or consent, English-American, verb: To use. To accept the licensing terms. To look at. To think about.

  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:54AM (#45915729) Homepage
    What I want to know is, Why does Ford need this data? I understand why people would have a GPS in their car, and why a recording of their actions might be stored on the car (although even more than a short history should be easily erased), but why doesn't this information need to be transmitted back to the car company at all? I bet most people, when asked about whether or not they want a GPS system are not told that the GPS will send information back to the manufacturer about their every movement.
  • by erikkemperman ( 252014 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:57AM (#45915749)

    By the way, we don't supply that data to anyone,' he told attendees.

    Well, until they show up with an NSL, in which case we'll supply the data forthwith. But don't worry, we'll still have to maintain we really don't.

  • Point taken. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:57AM (#45915751)

    Don't buy ford.

  • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:58AM (#45915755)

    Fired, CEO, def.: To be given a bonus. To be handed large amounts of money. Given an early retirement with free company-provided yachts.

    Fired, you, def.: To be fucked. Screwed. Rendered destitute. Forced to sell everything of value and told you are a drain on the resources of society.

    No matter how badly a CEO fucks up, they still get a "punishment" that's far in excess of any reward you'll likely get for your entire career, no matter how big the contribution.

  • by beaverdownunder ( 1822050 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:59AM (#45915771)

    Customers don't generally report casual breakdowns, for example. Also, habit trends can help with designing newer models. You'll always get a better picture of your customers' habits with transparent metrics.

  • by pngwen ( 72492 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:01AM (#45915791) Journal

    I, an active professor and research scientist, drive a 1982 Dodge Ram Pickup. No tracking, no disconnect, easy to work on engine. I will keep this baby going for the rest of my life, and no company will be tracking my whereabouts. (So long as I remember to turn off my cell phone, which I usually do.)

  • Re:Point taken. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:03AM (#45915811) Homepage Journal

    Who do you buy your supplies from when every corporation is intrusive?

    Every thread at slashdot has some snide NSA comment, and that's understandable. Slashdot tends to be more enlightened, but there are far fewer snide comments and corporate entities being intrusive with data (and the ones there are tend to be about Google and Facebook).

    However, if EVERY corporation is intrusive (and car companies will all be if they aren't already) then where do you go? Do you buy from Huffy? Huffy will probably put GPS in their frames.

    The idiot comment about OWS was always "but.. but... but... they buy stuff from corporations!" But what else can you do if you live in the U.S. Do you go out and live in a shack like the Unibomber?

  • Approval & Consent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Diddlbiker ( 1022703 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:03AM (#45915813)
    Meaning it's listed somewhere in the bill of sale. "Well you bought the car, didn't you? There's your consent"
  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:07AM (#45915851) Homepage

    What I want to know is, Why does Ford need this data?

    Of course they don't need it. My ten year old ford isn't sending them any info, but they were still quite capable of making cars a decade ago.

    The issue is why they want it, and it's because data is valuable. From a vehicle manufacturer's point of view it's actually most useful in anonymous aggregate. They are interested in trends. If they see lots of warranty claims, they may be able to isolate them to a group of drivers with similar driving style then mitigate this in future product designs.

    From a business perspective, they will always be looking at new markets like the one suggested by the exec.

    The biggest issue for me is the absolute lack of data protection laws in the US. There is an urgent need for some default rules that determine what can and cannot be done with customer data.

  • Re:Point taken. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:08AM (#45915861)

    In fact, don't buy any car. And while we're at it, never pay for public transport with anything else than cash. Those fancy smart cards will track you. Oh and never use a credit or debit card, only cash, never own a cell phone and never use an internet connection (unless you pirate one from a neighbour).

    Obviously, we have a choice. Either we seek help to cure our paranoia, or we all choose an Amish life.

  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:11AM (#45915891) Homepage

    I'm assuming the "approval and consent" is buried somewhere in very small print and the default value is "accept".

    I'm also guessing his company is very unhappy with him right now.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:16AM (#45915933) Journal
    Of course they don't track the customer. What they track is the vehicle,,, and the vehicle has no rights.
  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:16AM (#45915941)

    As a consumer, why would this entice me to purchase a car from Ford?

    At this point, the question you gotta ask yourself is: what other manufacturers are also doing this but haven't accidentally mentioned it in a public forum? Not buying Ford might punish Ford, true. But it might punish Ford not so much for doing it as to admitting it. (But that's your business as a consumer, of course. You can buy or not buy anything for any reason or no reason at all. I don't know which one I'd pick.)

    Long time ago, I interviewed for a job and the boss told me that he really didn't have that good of a method to honestly evaluate employees. So raises tended to go to the employees he thought were working the hardest and thus the most productive. And those employees were the ones he saw the most. In turning down the position, I wondered if I was giving up working for an honest boss in favor of a liar who would do the same thing but not admit to it. (For closure purposes, I found a middle ground: the boss admitted to the "face time" thing after I signed on.)

  • Omniscience how? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:18AM (#45915957)

    How does having my gps data give Ford the ability to "know everyone who breaks the law" and "know when you're doing it"?

    That's a rather impressive feat. How exactly does this magical gps data tell them person A ran a red light, person B robbed a convenience store, person C committed murder, ...?

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:19AM (#45915971)

    how does that work for used car purchases?

    I seriously doubt that any original owner agreements would be binding. in fact, 'ford' won't know who the current owner is, only the dealer-based buyer's identity. the gov will know (due to registration and tags) though.

    the more I hear about modern cars self-spying, the more I want to keep my very old car running and in good condition.

  • by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:20AM (#45915989)

    ``... or we all choose an Amish life.

    Boy oh boy... there are some days that this doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:34AM (#45916117)

    The solution will never happen. There is only two ways it'll happen:

    1. Boards stop that horseshit but they won't. They'll take care of their buddies and BS the shareholders by saying "We NEED to offer those compensation packages in order to get the best talent." And we all know that CEO talent has very little to do with business performance - although, the runup of Yahoo! because Meyer being hired - and no improvement in company fundamentals - showed the stupidity of Wall Street.

    2. Regulation - which won't happen because the majority of Americans are under the delusion that all they have to do is work harder and they can one day be in that position and therefore; any laws in that regard will hurt them down the line. And also, the propaganda about "Socialism" and what have you from the business/money'ed class' mouthpieces in the media.

  • Re:Point taken. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thoth ( 7907 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:39AM (#45916165) Journal

    Who do you buy your supplies from when every corporation is intrusive?
    However, if EVERY corporation is intrusive (and car companies will all be if they aren't already) then where do you go?

    Depends on who you ask. The Ayn-Randian-objectivist-anarcho-liberterian-conservative-capitalists, who have complete faith in the correctness of the free market even in the absence of government regulations, believe that the free market itself will solve this: eventually, corporations that don't monetize everything about you, will emerge and compete for the business of people who care about stuff like how their data is used. They will charge slightly higher prices to offset the profit they lose by not selling your data.

    Otherwise, those of us that don't live in a theoretical or academic fantasy land, will instead seek laws/regulations to limit this behavior.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @11:04AM (#45916455)

    One reason car companies collect this data is to steal the car back from you (repossess it) in the event of non-payment. The GPS tracking is often turned over to the Repo operators when they need to go steal your car back.

    True. And it works because of the incredibly low level of understanding about modern technology. Anyone with a wire cutter, soldering iron, and a few long runs of wire can thoroughly disable such a system. It's usually just a box wired directly to the battery and has a relay in series with the ignition. Cut the power leads and solder a wire to bridge the relay and you're done. Total time: 10 minutes. For bonus points, buy a deep cycle marine battery, a 50 gallon drum, and throw the result inside then seal it up and drop it off in the nearest river. It'll happily chirp it's location as it floats nine states away and off into the ocean.

    But then, I was feeling really bitchy when I helped a friend do this...

  • The Legal maxim is "Qui tacet consentire": "Silence gives consent".

    In modern corporate legal language this translates to -- "(Consumer) Ignorence is (Our) Bliss".

  • Re:Point taken. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @11:16AM (#45916553)

    This is fine for avoiding Ford's intrusiveness, but now you're giving Google access to all your travel data.

  • Re:Well (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @11:30AM (#45916727)

    The ford CEO was being blatantly honest. All the other companies do the exact same fucking thing e.g. On star. Ford is just honest about it. It is a tradeoff between safety / convenience and freedom. I applaud Ford, at least they are not lying to me. I am more concerned with the government mandating and requiring this information at all times. Today commercial truckers are required to carry electornic on board recorders that record exactly where you were at any given moment, if your engine was idleing, if you are wearing your seatbelt, etc. Commercial vehicals ussually get handed the laws about 10 years before the regular highway users.

    So by the year 2024 all vehicals will have there whereabout posted to the governments central traffic monitoring hub. If you disable this system, you will be a terrorist.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @12:07PM (#45917251)

    I love this part (emphasis added):

    "By activating or using the Service you expressly agree to the collection, logging, storage, and sharing of your vehicle travel information and other call details for the purposes set forth above in these Terms and Conditions regardless of whether or not you have read them."

    That's a beautiful bit of lawyer-speak there.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @12:10PM (#45917297)

    Well, you're answering your own question, aren't you? They believe, or at least this one guy does, they should convince their customers that this data is safe with them, in order to maximize the shareholder profits.

    You're making an extraordinary claim there; Namely, that customers care that their data is safe. The evidence does not support this claim. Look at almost any of the major data breaches of the past year. Companies that specialize in damage control, spin, brand identity, and business reputation repair services will tell you that profits are only adversely affected for a few months after a data breach is made known to the public. This suggests that privacy-invasive practices only become harmful to profit margins (a) for a short period of time and (b) when major news agencies report it.

    Nobody reads the EULA. Nobody investigates companies and makes purchasing decisions based on their privacy policies. These types of people are as mythical as unicorns -- the one or two guys who will respond to this post claiming they are the said unicorns notwithstanding, the general public just doesn't care.

    Which means selling personal data is a long term investment with a low risk over a timescale of years. As long as your company doesn't do anything substantially different than others in your industry, the envelope can be slowly and collectively pushed outwards and upwards.

  • Boiling frogs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @01:53PM (#45918555)

    Those bubbles you see around you are not soap bubbles.


  • by number17 ( 952777 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:42PM (#45919175)

    Let me get this straight. You think in order to have private property we need to make sure it isn't private property but state or fed owned?

    No. He did a pretty awesome job or explaining it. I suggest you reread it.

    Right now I can take your car by force. You could go to the state with your ownership papers and they will help get it back for you. The degree at which they help depends on where you live.

    Without the state there is no concept of ownership only the idea of who is currently in possession. You can tell me that it is yours, but until you take it by force it is mine.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM