Ford global marketing chief Jim Farley on Thursday retracted comments he made on Wednesday in which he said Ford can track customers to find out when they are breaking the law.
During a panel discussion about data privacy at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Farley tried to describe how much data Ford was able to collect on its customers and how its uses the data to avoid privacy issues.
"We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you're doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you're doing. By the way, we don't supply that data to anyone," he told attendees.
Farley then said he envisioned data gained via a vehicle's GPS could be used in the future to help marketers with traffic-related problems. For example, Farley said that marketers could use GPS signals to see how much traffic is heading toward a venue, allowing for an adjustment in parking lot resources.
After his comments Farley attempted to walk them back, telling BusinessInsider.com that he wanted to clarify his statements about how Ford operates and how GPS data is used.
"I absolutely left the wrong impression about how Ford operates. We do not track our customers in their cars without their approval or their consent," Farley said. "The statement I made in my eyes was hypothetical and I want to clear this up."
Farley's comments come not long after the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that consumers are not always made aware of the privacy risks involved when companies gather in-car location data.
The report stated that automakers have different policies regarding the collection of data and how long it is held on to. Location data is gathered to give drivers live traffic updates, provide directions, aid emergency workers and track the vehicle in the event of theft.
A Ford spokesman today said: "We made a statement that made light of a very serious privacy issue, and it left a wrong impression about how Ford operates. Ford is absolutely committed to protecting our customers' privacy. We do not track our customers. No data is transmitted from the vehicle without the customer's express consent first."
You can reach Sean Gagnier at firstname.lastname@example.org