Jim Farley, the global vp of marketing and sales at Ford, tells Business Insider he made a mistake when he implied that Ford gathers so much data from GPS units inside its customers' cars that the company knows when they're speeding or breaking the law.
"I absolutely left the wrong impression about how Ford operates. We do not track our customers in their cars without their approval or their consent," he says. "The statement I made in my eyes was hypothetical and I want to clear this up."
His original comments came yesterday during a panel discussion on consumer privacy at CES, the big electronics convention in Las Vegas: "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.
Farley then went on a speculative riff about the future, saying the data could be used anonymously and in aggregate to help other marketers with traffic-related problems, like a stadium that wants to know traffic patterns before a big event.
Today, however, Farley says he misrepresented the company. "I want to make it super-clear because this is very important to Ford — I'm the last person who wants to misportray this to our customers."
A Ford spokesperson also told Business Insider today that in general, GPS units in Ford cars are not routinely pinging out their whereabouts as customers drive around. Rather, Ford cars have several on-board services such as "Sync Services Directions" (a navigation device that works with drivers' phones) and 911 Assist, which users have to switch on and opt into. And employers can use a service called "Crew Chief" to monitor their corporate car fleet. Data coming from those services is generally used only to improve services, a spokesperson says.
"We don't share that," Farley says, referring to the opt-in data.
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