Ford tells Congress it collects and protects some driver data

Last month Ford's Jim Farley made waves at the CES when it was reported he told show attendees, "We have GPS in your car, so we know what you're doing. By the way, we don't supply that data to anyone." Farley and Ford later partially retracted and clarified that statement.

Spurred by a desire for further transparency on data collection policies, Ford representatives answered questions from Congress, specifically Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), about driver privacy.

The Detroit News reports that Ford told Congress it does collect some vehicle location data in an effort to "troubleshoot and improve our products" on behalf of the driver. Ford went on to say that it only collects limited data after receiving permission from owners.

Ford also spelled out how, and how long, different types of data is collected and stored. The company claims that travel data from SYNC services can be kept for up to 60 days, but only to "fulfill the customer request" according to the Detroit News report, as well as for the aforementioned troubleshooting. Location data from in-vehicle navigation systems can be kept in the vehicle's own storage for up to weeks at a time (depending on number of miles traveled). Ford does collect data about plug-in hybrids and EVs, including speed data, but only when the battery system charge is low.

Ford also said that it will turn over vehicle data if subpoenaed to do so, but only via physical access to the vehicle in question.

For his part, Sen. Franken believes the time is ripe for a reintroduction of his "location privacy" bill, which would require that customers be better informed about where their data is going, and asking for "clear consent" before it is gathered, stored, or shared. "This is sensitive information," said Franken, "and notices to consumers about this sensitive data shouldn't get lost in fine print."

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