A few weeks ago, Ford's Global VP Jim Farley made some statements surrounding how the company collects location data with its built-in navigation tools and Sync system, and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) took notice. He quickly wrote a letter to Ford asking the automaker to explain exactly what GPS location data the company collects in its vehicles and who exactly Ford shares that data with, and Ford has now responded. "No location data is wirelessly transmitted from the vehicle without customer consent," writes Ford VP Curt Magleby. "Location data is used only to support customer requests for services, and to troubleshoot and improve our products."
The memo to Franken goes on to detail exactly what services in Ford's vehicles collect location data and how exactly it is used — as expected, the navigation system stores GPS data, but Ford says that it is never transmitted off the car to Ford or any other company, and it's deleted after two to three weeks. Ford's Sync services also take advantage of GPS data, and the company does share it with its data service partners to provide the promised functionality; Ford also notes that customers must opt in to the services before they share any location data.
As for how that data is used, Ford notes that it does not sell the data, nor does it allow its Sync service provider partners to share it either. Franken also asked if the data was shared with government agencies or law enforcement, to which Ford said that it only does with permission of the vehicle owner or "pursuant to a court order." All in all, it sounds like Ford is being fairly responsible with consumer data — while the company does share it with its partners, it doesn't sound like anything unusual happens with it otherwise. Franken may be a noted defender of the public's right to privacy, but it seems that Ford's answers should be enough to satisfy him.