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from the L.A. Times

TomTom sells traffic data to Dutch government

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TomTom, maker of popular GPS navigation devices, apologized Wednesday after news that Dutch police used data gathered from drivers who use the company's products to set traps sparked an uproar among customers.

Algemeen Dagblad, a newspaper in the Netherlands, reported that Dutch police had obtained traffic information from the government and were setting up speed traps based on the information. On the same day, TomTom slashed its 2011 sales forecast after a weak first-quarter earnings report and announced plans to bolster slipping demand for GPS devices by focusing on services such as selling traffic data.

TomTom users weren't too happy. In response, the company issued a statement that assured customers it would investigate how the data sold was used. TomTom Chief Executive Harold Goddijn also posted a YouTube video Wednesday promising that TomTom would "prevent that kind of usage" of from here on out.

The Dutch police use the information obtained "to put up speed cameras and speed traps. We don't like that because our customers don't like it," he said. "We will prevent that type of usage of our data in the future."

The data is anonymous and not linked to particular drivers, he added. Only information from drivers who had opted in was collected and sold, and the company believed that the information would be used to improve traffic safety.

With many drivers opting to obtain directions from smartphones rather than a specialized navigation device, TomTom slashed this year's sales target to $1.43 billion, down from previous forecast of $1.52 billion, and predicted that the market for such products would decline at least 15% in 2011.

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-- Shan Li

Photo: A TomTom Via Live navigation device. Credit: TomTom

 
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