Franken presses Ford on use of GPS data

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is pressing Ford for more information about its use of GPS tracking in vehicles.

The senator said he is concerned about how the company is using the GPS data, and sent a letter to Ford chief executive Alan Mulally asking him to spell out what type of information is collected and how it is used.

Last week, Ford's executive vice president for global marketing and sales Jim Farley said that GPS units in the vehicles allow Ford to “know everyone who breaks the law" but that the automaker does not share that data.

The claim came on the heels of a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found some car companies have "unclear" privacy policies that could confuse customers. The report also found that all companies the GAO looked at both collect and share location data.

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"This would strongly suggest that Ford does, in fact, share its customers’ location data in some form," Franken wrote in the letter sent Monday.

Farley has since retracted his statements, but that has not quelled Franken's concerns.

The senator wrote that companies operating car-based GPS still provide "too little transparency" about the way information about their driving patterns is used. "American drivers deserve better — and Mr. Farley’s latest statements underscore this problem."

“It’s troubling to see confusing and contradictory comments from Ford about something as sensitive as their customers’ location data  — just days after the GAO report," he added in a statement.

The GAO surveyed 10 vehicle manufacturers, device companies and app developers for its report.

After the report came out, Franken said that it had encouraged him to reintroduce his location privacy bill from 2012. The Location Privacy Protection Act passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee but never received a floor vote.

— This story was updated at 2:22 p.m.

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