TomTom cleared of data violation allegations

Results from official probe clears Dutch navigation services provider of violating data protection laws after it previously admitted to sharing customers' data with third parties, report says.

Europe's largest satellite navigations (satnav) manufacturer TomTom revealed an official probe has cleared it of allegations that it shared customers' individual location and traffic information with other parties, such as the police.

The company issued a statement on Thursday saying that it had been cooperating with the Dutch Data Protection Authority (CBP) in recent months to ensure it is fully compliant with privacy laws, and has since been found that sharing of data with third parties did not constitute a violation of Dutch privacy laws.

"The Data Protection Authority found that TomTom has never shared its customers' private location data with third parties," it said.

Simon Hania, TomTom's head of privacy and information security, told Reuters on Thursday that the data collected is "anonymous and aggregated" before being sold to governments to give them updated information to help them plan new roads and improve traffic flow.

"Today it was confirmed by the CBP that we never have and we never will sell data from our individual users to anyone else, including governments and the police," Hania said.

These statements come after TomTom publicly apologized for selling its customers' driving data to local and regional governments in the Netherlands to help police set speed traps to catch speeding motorists last April, according to a report by U.K. news agency Guardian.

Clearer data usage policies needed
The CBP did state that TomTom did not provide sufficient information about what data was being collected on its personal navigation devices (PNDs) and how it was being used, when it asked for customer permission to gather such information.

To address this, all TomTom consumer products will receive a software update next month, which will provide users with detailed information about what customer location information the company gathers, how it uses the data, and how customers can opt in and out of sharing their information should they choose to.

Alain De Taeye, management board member of TomTom, said: "By providing a better explanation on what data is obtained from our customers and how and why it is used, we avoid any unnecessary surprises. We have always safeguarded the data contributions made by our customers. We want to reassure all our customers that that we use data to profile roads and traffic, and not individual people."