TomTom apologizes for helping police catch speeders

By on April 29, 2011, 5:18 PM
With smartphones, tablets and other mobile electronics offering integrated GPS functionality, single-purpose GPS devices are becoming less popular among consumers. Naturally, less interest equates to weaker sales and that's affecting the bottom line of companies like TomTom. To compensate for declining sales, the Dutch manufacturer recently said it would focus on expanding its service revenues --including selling user-derived traffic data to the government.

That decision backfired this week when customers discovered that police departments in the Netherlands were using the GPS information to catch speeders. In a video, TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn said the company sold the data to local authorities so they could identify traffic congestions and other road hazards. However, the cops thought it would be clever to deploy traps such as cameras where the data showed motorists were most likely to violate the speed limit.

In an apology, Goddijn said the company was unaware the government was using your data in this fashion and he promised to prevent that type of usage in the future. While the information was being misused, Goddijn assured customers that their data submissions are entirely anonymous and cannot be linked back to a specific GPS device. It's worth mentioning that users can opt out of the data collection, but TomTom discourages that for obvious reasons.




User Comments: 41

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lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Isn't catching speeders... a good thing?

Scshadow said:

It would be one thing if they linked data back to the user and charged them with speeding. Its another thing to use anonymous data to start cracking down on speeders. Don't apologize for ****.

HaMsTeYr HaMsTeYr said:

@lawfer

I guess people generally don't like to be fined, though I find this a good thing. I think it sort of runs along the lines of privacy breach and what not too...

People generally don't like the "Big Brother is watching" deal.

MrAnderson said:

Actually I don't think this was a bad idea, but the information should go both ways.

As part of the deal to exchange aggregate customer information... customers should have been provide with information regarding "hot zones" - areas that are considered speeding coridors and been forwarned...

Isn't the point of stopping speeding to save lives and to keep traffic running smoothly? Or was the windfall of data just a fundraiser for governement?

Timonius Timonius said:

*Government misusing data? no way! *end sarcasm

Guest said:

I'm inclined to side with MrAnderson on this. Two-way information is fair and promotes both public safety and education. If people know that they'll in a monitored area where speeding is high (and perhaps the risk of traffic accident as well), the better for them. And law enforcement can do their jobs better, with information enabling them to do so.

The main sticking point here is that speeding is a safety hazard, and when people claim privacy to cover up irresponsibility and safety for others, that's when liberty is abused.

I find it irritating how outraged people become when some governing authority discovers them doing something stupid / illegal / irresponsible / dastardly in a way they thought they could get away with. As if getting away with it is supposed to make it better.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

Well in this case, it wasn't able to be tied to any specific individual, but obviously the technology exists so that it could be.

For all of you people on your high horses about catching speeders.. thats fine, if you get caught then you have no one to blame but yourself. But when government agencies are using devices in individual cars to monitor your speed at all times, it is not. If its going to be that way at some point in the future, maybe they are better off making all cars with a receiver that collects data from entrances to roads to see what the speed limit is, then limit the cars speed to that.

LookinAround LookinAround, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I think the key is anonymizing the data. I'm OK with government drawing conclusions when it's based on aggregated and anonymized data.

We can all reap the benefit of large amounts of anonymized data: We'd all like to see accurate real-time traffic reports displayed on our GPS nav system And if real time traffic display could show a driver the current average speed on the road was 70mph (even tho speed limit was 55mph?) - would it be OK for a driver to speed? Or wrong for the police to set up road traps?!

But now also consider that "two way street" of information flow: Would you want a reckless / impaired driver to be able ask their GPS nav system for a route that avoids DUI checkpoints and speed traps??? I would not.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

If its going to be that way at some point in the future, maybe they are better off making all cars with a receiver that collects data from entrances to roads to see what the speed limit is, then limit the cars speed to that.
With something like this in force, the "Rush hour" would likely extend to about 9:00 PM. The quickest way to get killed in rush hour traffic is to try traveling at the speed limit.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I've gone back and forth on this particular subject, but ultimately nobody is either forcing, nor enticing anyone to break the law.

Guest said:

Uh no, it's not a good thing, since speed limits are artificially low and were introduced when cars' handling and braking was far inferior to a typical modern car. If we reduced the speed limit on all roads to 5 mph and people stuck to it then there would be far less road fatalities, but it would rightly be seen as ridiculous, but the current situation where speed limits are set two or three times lower than a competent driver in a modern car is capable of traveling at without incident isn't much less stupid.

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

MrAnderson said:

Actually I don't think this was a bad idea, but the information should go both ways.

As part of the deal to exchange aggregate customer information... customers should have been provide with information regarding "hot zones" - areas that are considered speeding coridors and been forwarned...

Isn't the point of stopping speeding to save lives and to keep traffic running smoothly? Or was the windfall of data just a fundraiser for governement?

You couldn't have put it in any better way.

abe10tiger abe10tiger, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Isn't this suppose to be a good thing? :P

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

+1 MrA

@SNGX

There is already some discussions about placing a 'blackbox' type of device in cars (I hope it won't happen though).

Guest said:

speed is everything, speed is life, speed is ours.

Guest said:

why manufacturers dont block speed limit to 130 km/h? why?? because speed is legal or what else?

Guest said:

They were not trying to catch dangerous speeders who drive significantly faster than the average traffic flow. They were trying to harvest a source of money from the general public. This is shown directly by their targeting areas where all the traffic is traveling faster than the posted limit, instead of areas where a minority of car are found to be traveling dangerously faster than the rest of the traffic. Big difference in terms of enforcing safety, or just taking our money.

mosu said:

Big Brother with little brothers like Apple and now TomTom.Never submit your data to anyone!

Guest said:

They have proven higher speeds don't cause higher accident rates. Accidents are caused by lack of focus, horrible luck, and or poor driving.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

They were not trying to catch dangerous speeders who drive significantly faster than the average traffic flow. They were trying to harvest a source of money from the general public. This is shown directly by their targeting areas where all the traffic is traveling faster than the posted limit, instead of areas where a minority of car are found to be traveling dangerously faster than the rest of the traffic. Big difference in terms of enforcing safety, or just taking our money.

Why would you not target the area where most people are likely to be speeding? Kinda dumb to set up a camera that may catch a speeder once every two weeks, rather than one that catches 10 people daily.

I'm all against speed traps, but everyone is acting like speed limits are just set deliberately to inconvenience people. In most cases its done with safety in mind, not as a way to line coffers. Its not a toll booth, nobody is forcing you to speed.

People run red lights going 20 mph over the limit, get caught by a camera, and act like they're the subject of some FBI sting and their civil liberties are being trampled upon.

Shnig said:

gwailo247 said:

Why would you not target the area where most people are likely to be speeding? Kinda dumb to set up a camera that may catch a speeder once every two weeks, rather than one that catches 10 people daily.

I'm all against speed traps, but everyone is acting like speed limits are just set deliberately to inconvenience people. In most cases its done with safety in mind, not as a way to line coffers. Its not a toll booth, nobody is forcing you to speed.

"In most cases its done with safety in mind" Lies. The reason most people including me are so annoyed with speed checks is that they are nearly always done at places where speeding is "safe" i.e a highway where accidents rarely happen this is done to boost numbers so the middle management can boast about figures. If it was really about saving lives they would do speed checks on the small windy country roads where in my country at least most of the accidents happen.

Guest said:

**** no *****!

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

shnig said:

"In most cases its done with safety in mind" Lies. The reason most people including me are so annoyed with speed checks is that they are nearly always done at places where speeding is "safe" i.e a highway where accidents rarely happen this is done to boost numbers so the middle management can boast about figures. If it was really about saving lives they would do speed checks on the small windy country roads where in my country at least most of the accidents happen.

The problem begins when people start deciding what is and what is not safe. Your definition of safe may not be some other person's definition of safe. I've seen people drive outside an elementary school when kids are getting out at over 40 mph. They probably feel that they're being safe too. One of the reasons why we have laws and not customs.

Shnig said:

You didn't see the quotation marks around the word safe it seems. I was quite clearly implying that speeding is never safe. Think you kind of missed the point of my argument.

B00kWyrm B00kWyrm, TechSpot Paladin, said:

higher speeds don't cause higher accident rates

Perhaps not... but...

Speed differential DOES... and the faster people travel, at some point the greater the "differential" ...

Be it from entering/exiting traffic,

or vehicles or drivers incapable of higher speeds,

or pedestrian/bicycle traffic!

ALSO... greater speeds result in greater injuries and fatalities.

Both of these (differential danger, and injury) are factors behind speed laws.

Catching speeders... a good thing. Yes.

"Anonymized data"... a good thing, Yes.

And around here... they normally DO give notice about upcoming placements of speed cameras... usually near schools.

I favor the placements. (and yes I have been stung!) I favor red-light cameras too.

My wife ... has a different opinion.

Zecias said:

Guest said:

Uh no, it's not a good thing, since speed limits are artificially low and were introduced when cars' handling and braking was far inferior to a typical modern car. If we reduced the speed limit on all roads to 5 mph and people stuck to it then there would be far less road fatalities, but it would rightly be seen as ridiculous, but the current situation where speed limits are set two or three times lower than a competent driver in a modern car is capable of traveling at without incident isn't much less stupid.

yes, because competent drivers can drive safely at 240 mph on freeways. its also easy to stop within short distances when you are driving at 60 mph in suburban areas.(sarcasm)

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

shnig said:

You didn't see the quotation marks around the word safe it seems. I was quite clearly implying that speeding is never safe. Think you kind of missed the point of my argument.

You said that setting speed limits with safety in mind is a lie. I disagreed and outlined my reasons. Was there another point I missed?

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Guest # 20 .....

They have proven higher speeds don't cause higher accident rates

Having to stop suddenly is what kills people; although usually people tend to use other means (including brakes) to stop e.g. poles, walls, other cars etc.

Now consider this, in Germany there are large swaths of Autobahns which have no speed limits, and yet very good safety record, for a reason i.e. Europeans build cars, and american companys build 'tanks' which are much harder to stop and much easier to crash, they can't go round the corner (they go 'around' it); unimaginably fuel in-efficient; and lastly poorly built.

Just in case, these 'tanks' have some advantages too, e.g. if you want to get even with someone, simply runover their house with your tank (I am not advising anyone to do this by the way, it is just a fact)

Guest said:

Tom Tom Ceo is a retard.. and must be fired asap !!

Guest said:

I agree. You have nothing to fear if you stay below the speed limit.

Guest said:

Info: Big Brother doesn't need to watch speed limiters have been in effect(in the U.S. at least) for years.

e.x. my hyundai accent is factory limited to 109mph like many vehicles also had chevy lumina previously owned by an old man limited(non-factory) to 55mph(awesome thing to find out on the highway where the speed limit is 75).

Guest said:

The speed limits are much higher in parts of Europe than in the U.S. Speed only kills in countries that need cash from speeding tickets for revenue.

Rasta211 said:

This clearly has advantages and disadvantages. All I know is Tom Tom ain't going to help pay my fine if I get a ticket from a speeding trap that was created based off my data.

Tom Tom gets paid, government gets paid, I don't? WTF.

Opting out of all my data tracking then.

Guest said:

on April 30, 2011

5:47 PM gwailo247 said:

Why would you not target the area where most people are likely to be speeding? Kinda dumb to set up a camera that may catch a speeder once every two weeks, rather than one that catches 10 people daily.

I'm all against speed traps, but everyone is acting like speed limits are just set deliberately to inconvenience people. In most cases its done with safety in mind, not as a way to line coffers. Its not a toll booth, nobody is forcing you to speed.

If you really wanted to stop speeding for the safety of the public, you'd make the opportunity cost of engaging in speeding too high for people to tolerate. The fine would become a Notice of Apparent Liability in the amount of, say, $25,000.00 and maybe even use the tactics of the DEA and confiscate the personal property being used in the commission of the crime, the automobile that was being driven in excess of the posted speed limit. I believe these penalties would raise the opportunity costs to a level that would generally stop most people from engaging in speeding. Then the police we already have employed could work on deterring other crimes. That said, I also believe that the community contact targets, "quotas", are really for the generation of revenue for the municipality and always have been about raising revenue, not public safety.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

on April 30, 2011

If you really wanted to stop speeding for the safety of the public, you'd make the opportunity cost of engaging in speeding too high for people to tolerate. The fine would become a Notice of Apparent Liability in the amount of, say, $25,000.00 and maybe even use the tactics of the DEA and confiscate the personal property being used in the commission of the crime, the automobile that was being driven in excess of the posted speed limit. I believe these penalties would raise the opportunity costs to a level that would generally stop most people from engaging in speeding. Then the police we already have employed could work on deterring other crimes. That said, I also believe that the community contact targets, "quotas", are really for the generation of revenue for the municipality and always have been about raising revenue, not public safety.

Again, nobody is forcing anybody to break the speed limit and speed. Speed traps and bombs under buses aside, people get speeding tickets in situations where the speed limit is posted, they probably drive that route daily, and they knowingly and deliberately exceed the speed limit and get a ticket.

How complicated is it to avoid getting a ticket just by driving the posted speed limit?

We keep acting like this is some kind of violation of our Constitutional and God given right to speed in our cars.

krayzie said:

*deletes tomtom app* lost my business....

MilwaukeeMike said:

Before you complain about Big Brother, remember that the technology exists to hook up a radar gun to a camera, mount it on a bridge and photograph anyone going more than 5 over, run your plates and mail you a ticket. It?s how those iPass RFID toll stations work (minus the radar gun of course)

Using GPS data to determine WHERE (not WHO) people speed is no big deal whatsoever. Ever run over those pairs of sensor strips on the freeway, or drive by one of those displays that shows your speed and speed limit? They use those tools to find out where people are speeding. This is the same thing.

Guest said:

The universe a FAR more intricate and complex than human law. This is why good judges are indispensable. It's problematic when we try to reduce law to mathematics - automate it that is. It is wrong to use technology in this way, it does not respect the human condition.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

The universe a FAR more intricate and complex than human law. This is why good judges are indispensable. It's problematic when we try to reduce law to mathematics - automate it that is. It is wrong to use technology in this way, it does not respect the human condition.

We're not talking about who did what in a domestic disturbance case where there are many more factors to consider. This is about speeding. In these cases of very simple math an impartial machine is far better than a cop whose personal views and prejudices may have him stop one person while letting another person go. I disagree, speeding is pretty cut and dry, even when compared to other traffic violations such as unsafe lane change, or following too closely.

Its not as if every person speeding is racing their pregnant wife to the hospital, or driving their shot friend to a doctor. If you're really racing to stop a bomb from exploding and you get a camera ticket for doing so, after you get the key to the city from the mayor, I'm sure they'll take care of your violation.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

My only problem with this is the fact that not everyone has TomTom and only those who do are targeted. I personally don't have TomTom but find it unfair to those who do. If they are going to implement something make sure everyone will be monitored.

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