We are the eye in the sky

You may remember this from a few days back:

Last week, Ford’s Global VP of Marketing and Sales, Jim Farley, told a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that Ford has access to data on its customers’ driving habits via the GPS system installed in their cars. “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 said.

It took about 24 hours for Farley to backpedal:

The next day Mr. Farley adjusted his statement to avoid giving the wrong impression saying that the statement was hypothetical and that Ford does not routinely collect information on, or otherwise track, drivers through their GPS systems without those drivers’ consent and approval. That approval comes from turning on and opting into specific services like 911 Assist and something called Sync Services Directions, a system that links the GPS system to users’ cellular phones.

Which you, as a Ford owner, were aware you were consenting to, right?

Then again, most of us give up information something less than grudgingly:

Years ago I read a factoid that said when most Americans have the opportunity to opt out of junk mail, things like advertising brochures and store catalogs, we actually sign up for more. I think that’s as true today as it was back then. We don’t like intrusive forms of advertising like phone calls during the dinner hour and pop-up ads in our browsers, but generally speaking the average American doesn’t mind things like targeted ads that appear off to the side or above a website’s banner. These things are, we know, a necessary evil, the price we pay for free content. After all, someone has to pay the bills in order to keep a website running and targeted ads based on my browsing history are an effective way of getting me to see a product I might actually buy.

Or, in my case, getting me to see one I looked at but didn’t buy, and continuing to get me to see it until I give in.


  1. McGehee »

    16 January 2014 · 7:05 am

    Which you, as a Ford owner, were aware you were consenting to, right?

    Actually, yes. But then, when we’re talking about (IIRC) $60 a month for the service, you better believe I read through the verbiage. Still, this wasn’t even hidden in the fine print. At least, not exactly.

    After what we’ve learned about the NSA and the IRS and what-all, it doesn’t take any more than a healthy amount of paranoia to anticipate some consequences.

    At any rate, I have a perfectly good dash-top GPS for navigation, and unless it’s one of a very limited subset of ringtones I let calls go to voicemail if they come in while I’m driving. And if my wife or mother-in-law are in the car I can hand them the phone.

    So that consent thing? Withheld.

  2. McGehee »

    16 January 2014 · 7:05 am

    Whoops. $60 a year, not month. Still…

  3. fillyjonk »

    16 January 2014 · 7:17 am

    I got a car without GPS (or at least, without GPS that’s known to me. I suppose there could be a tracker buried somewhere inside the car’s guts).

    My big dead-tree copy of the Oklahoma Gazetteer will never share information about where I go with the company, the feds, or anyone….

    And people call me a dinosaur for preferring paper maps….

  4. Charles Pergiel »

    16 January 2014 · 11:22 am

    Best way to keep a low profile is to not do anything to make you stand out, like opting out of whatever it is. Yes! I am one of the herd! Don’t pay any attention to me, I am not doing anything weird, I will just mosey along here with all the other cattle on our way to the cattle cars. Mooo!

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