/ Motoring, Technology

Should police have access to drivers’ sat nav data?

Police with handheld speed camera

TomTom last week admitted that the Dutch police had access to its customers’ sat nav data. And though it wasn’t aware that this was used to set speed traps, should the police have its hands on our GPS data at all?

Just when you thought the whole online privacy and tracking issue was coming under some sort of control, along comes a story to stop you in your tracks.

Sat nav company TomTom was last week forced onto the defensive when a Dutch newspaper revealed that its customer-generated GPS data had been used by the Dutch police to set speed traps in order to catch speeding motorists.

The company soon issued a statement and video (embedded below) approaching these concerns. TomTom CEO Harold Goodijn stressed that offering your personal sat nav data is voluntary and that it’s also provided anonymously:

Now, I’m reading between the lines here, but it appears as though Goddijn is saying that TomTom sells its travel time data to help governments and local authorities identify black spots, reduce congestion and improve road safety. Isn’t that a laudable goal?

He also says that the company was unaware that the Dutch police used this data to put up speed cameras and set speed traps. And, thankfully, it ‘will make sure that this type of information is no longer used for this particular application’.

So, what do you think? Are you persuaded by Goddijn’s quite impassioned response, or will you stop using your TomTom and switch to a brand that hasn’t let its driver data fall into the hands of the police?

Perhaps even the British police have used TomTom’s data in the same way? The firm says that it can’t guarantee that the Dutch police was the only police force to do so. And let’s face it, with speed cameras in this country routinely snapping motorists for some misdemeanour or other, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.

Brian Kidd says:
4 May 2011

It doesn’t surprise me that this data is being used in this way. I’m only surprised that this information isn’t already being used in the UK – or is it? I don’t care how many assurances the government gives us you cannot trust politicians with our information. The temptation is too strong for them to resist trying to control us or tax us even more than we are now.One only has to remember all of the promises that have been broken in just the last decade to know how untrustworthy politicians are!
Remember how the Labour Government tried to “sell” I D cards! Don’t by Tom Tom!!

Ad Refusnik says:
4 May 2011

You don’t have to share this information – so just don’t!


As far as I’m concerned – All methods to monitor and help reduce speeding are to be encouraged – too many people speed. Though removing the 1 million uninsured drivers from the road permanently is more important..

Just like ID cards – great idea – would have helped monitor, detect and remove illegal immigrants – The trouble was it was proposed that we be charged £90 for it. During the war we had ID cards and these were issued free (still have mine)


The point here is “sells”.

If TomTom “gave” the information to police to perform a morally laudible goal then there wouldn’t be an issue. However this proves that all technology does is give the providers another product to sell, data.

I worked at TomTom and Goddijn is a politician, so you have to take his “impassioned response” with a pinch of salt as he is trying not to lose face and customers.
In Holland the surreptitious way that the dutch go about policing speed is seen an invasion of their human rights. There are many dutch websites showing how to destroy a Gatso and where the radar hotspots are. Some dutch folk actually find the police and then drive back down the motorway and put a huge RADAR sign to let people know. This is not against the law.

The dutch are very protective over their rights and privacy and I trust them to fully take TomTom to the cleaners with this one.

Some basic facts are that a dutchman invented the speed camera and the Netherlands have the most congested roads in Europe. Having driven round Holland many time, I was only snapped once, the rest of the time you are sitting in a traffic jam due to poorly designed motorways and junctions


Hi Dean, great to hear your views on this. It’s worth pointing out that TomTom’s anonymous customer data was sold to the Dutch government who then either sold it on or made it available to the Dutch police. The police then used the data to set up the traps.

Would that distinction appease your point?


Not really, because they “sold” it to the Dutch government in the first place.

In other words, making a profit from a non-retail product that isn’t theirs to sell. Yes you can turn it off, as I always did, but let’s say you have TomTom HD traffic or Fuel Prices. You have to have data flowing both ways for that to work and so effectively you pay for the device, then the monthly subscription. Then they sell your usage data. 3 revenue streams in 1 product!

In all honesty, you don’t know who they sell your data to, in the same way that you don’t know who your facebook and LinkedIn data gets sold to.

When I left TomTom they had just bought teleatlas for 1.4bn euros and made a load of redundancies and had to increase revenue because of the rise of smartphones and decline of PND’s. This is I believe one of those revenue generating initiatives. Even better if you can sell it to the government because you have a ready-made scapegoat should something go awry. 🙂


Besides, why did the Dutch government buy it in the first place? You did say that you were reading between the lines, but ultimately, traffic data has been publicly available for years.

However, I have a cynical view that the Dutch government purposely engineer traffic situations in their country to make it seem larger than it actually is and/or to get people to use the state controlled trains! 🙂


I agree with the comment posted above by “richard”. Anything to stop people speeding can only be for everyone’s benefit. Let’s face it, the enforcement of speed limits in the UK is currently a great big politically correct joke. Brightly painted cameras, camera vans with big stripey panels, police in hi-vis jackets. What nonsense! In France, speed traps are hidden and radar detectors in cars are illegal and, guess what, you won’t see too many people speeding on the autoroutes.
If you think some of the speed limits in this country are ridculously low (and I do) then write to your MP; don’t encourage people to break the law.

Neil says:
6 May 2011

I have a TomTom satnav & can’t understand the fuss, The data is anonymous and to use it to site speed cameras or whatever in places where more drivers are exceeding limits seems a good idea to me. TomTom also provide drivers with speed camera data so they can avoid getting caught! I’m no lover of TomTom as a company since they sell so called pan European satnavs with insufficient memory (2gb) to actually accommodate a map of Europe and in this instance I think their CEO is simply pandering to the knee jerk reactions of people who don’t like governments trying to do their job properly.