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Data Privacy and Navigation: How our personal data is used in Navigation Apps.

Data Privacy and Navigation: How our personal data is used in Navigation Apps. 36

By Anna Krzyzanowska, Product Manager, TomTom GO Navigation

The creation of satellite navigation allowed for a huge amount of freedom for drivers. Getting from A to B was made easy with hardware which contained a whole city’s worth of data on one small screen. The birth of the smartphone ushered in an era of hand-held navigation, with apps that connect to the internet to help us find our way, but with this came new challenges.

Traditional navigation hardware was made with one purpose, which is to navigate and direct. Smartphones come with an amalgamation of other features all running on top of one another which can be a cause for concern. Most of us are already aware that using certain services means that our data is being collected. But we tend to forget that some navigation apps can also be a part of this.

Navigation apps will use data, whether this be ‘internet data’ or a collection of more personal data, such as where you’re going and with whom. The mobile data used to download information and updates relies on an internet connection. Some popular navigation apps will use an average of 2.23MB of data for every hour that you’re on the road – and will also drain your battery while it’s running. Driver-centric navigation apps have created downloadable maps by country for this exact reason – this means you can easily travel with the app whether you’re at home or overseas.  While we do associate these apps with cellular data, we often forget the other data that these apps use – personal.

Privacy has been a trending topic for a few years now. Users trust companies to do the right thing with this data, however this isn’t always the case. Apps need to make a profit, and this is sometimes done through data. Targeted suggestions tend to come from this. Balancing convenience of these features, while still remaining respectful of users privacy can be a juggling act for most navigation apps.

Target ads also stem from this same system, this data is collected and then used to promote ads which link to your lifestyle. These navigation apps are also often linked to another larger company who use this data. Searched for ‘Movies near me’? You’ll most likely see some cinema ads appearing on your devices in the next few days. Some of these ads appear in the navigation app itself, which can be distracting and unsafe for drivers. So while our names may be anonymous, our lifestyles are not. We can choose to opt-out of certain things, however when you use these apps you’re agreeing to terms and conditions which you may not be so happy with once you read the fine print.

Not all of these navigation apps are the same. Apps which specialize in navigation, which are driver focused, tend to place a higher value on the privacy of their clients and take steps to ensure that this data is safe and completely anonymous. While some of these apps may require a subscription, it comes with the assurance that your data is safe and is not shared with any third parties. These types of apps don’t rely on targeted advertising or sharing your private information with other companies. The data used in our TomTom GO Navigation App is to provide drivers with the most accurate ETA’s on the market and to ensure you’re getting from A to B as efficiently as possible.

Through apps using this data ethically, you’re able to improve the driving experience while protecting your personal information. It allows us for a much higher level of control of data and this data is fully anonymized without permanent storage.

Overall, there seems to be a misconception that your data is, and should, be used, when in fact it’s the opposite. Tracking and collecting of personal data for advertising purposes should not be considered the norm. Personal privacy should be valued above all else and you shouldn’t be personally identifiable under any circumstances. This ethos is what should be considered innovative to these companies, not making money off users, but ensuring that their experience is seamless, and most importantly safe.

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