Electronics makers, rental chains spying on us via our gadgets


I love my electronic gadgets but I don’t like what they’re capable of doing sometimes. Gizmos can spy on us!

GPS maker TomTom was selling off data that was aggregated from users and that info wound up in the hands of police departments! TomTom had turned the info over to a third party and they’re the ones who sold the info to local governments. The info that changed hands included where you were, when you were there and how fast you were driving to get there. (No word yet on exactly which police departments were buying this info.)

So here you have a case of local governments trying to boost revenue. So they used the data to determine where to set up speed traps so they could write the most tickets! Both The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal have written stories about this.

TomTom has since apologized and said they didn’t know the info would be used for these purposes. They’re also changing their terms of service so no longer can their data be used by police to trap you for a speeding ticket.

Far creepier is the story about what’s going on with Aaron’s, Inc. (formerly Aaron Rents.) One Aaron’s franchisee was renting computers loaded with software that allowed remote spying, taking pictures of customers or watching them in real time.

Now, there is a technology I’ve talked about where auto dealers can shut down your car if you’re late on your payment. I think that’s totally legitimate and fine, like an electronic kill switch. But to have software that allows out-and-out spying?! Wow, is all I can say!

We have no rules in the United States governing what’s a decent standard of privacy with electronics and we really need something fast.

By the way, as a side note, I was floored by the numbers in the Aaron’s story. For what you pay to rent a computer for 7 weeks, you could take that same amount of money and buy a computer for cash that you own forever!  

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