Ford Considering use of Customer’s Personal Data as a Revenue Stream

Everything we do generates a data trail. Even driving our car.

Gary Grant By: Gary Grant November 22, 2018

Yahoo. Adult Friend Finder. ebay. Target. Ashley Madison. Uber. What do they all have in common?

They’ve all had massive data breaches which put the population, or at least some of it, into a tizzy worrying about the safety of their personal data.

The reality of life today is that just about everything we do generates data about ourselves. From the first time we check our social media in the morning, to checking emails, to flashing our debit card for coffee, we leave a digital print. We watch smart televisions which are connected to the web. Many of us even use web-connected home security systems. Everything we do generates a data trail. Even driving our car. Especially when driving our car!

The entire vehicle ownership experience, from shopping to purchase and even servicing adds to that data trail. All vehicles today record some level of driving habit data, similar to an airplane’s black box, but many can record every trip you make using their onboard navigation system. An increasing number of vehicles are connected to the internet now, with some even having the ability to act as a mobile hotspot.

If that picture gets you all wound up as you worry about Big Brother seeing too much of your life, then buckle up, because the big boss at Ford wants to make money from that data trail you are spreading.

In a recent interview with the Freakonomics podcast, Ford CEO Jim Hackett discussed a number of topics, ranging from his own background as a leader outside of the auto industry to his vision of Ford as a “transportation operating system” company rather than simply an auto manufacturer.

Described as a futurist, Hackett’s job is to take the blue oval into the future. Turning a more than a century old company in a notoriously staid industry into a new lane is certainly no easy task and requires thinking outside the box in a big way. In some respects, Hackett is blowing the box to bits.

Jim hackett ford

At C.E.S. Ford rolled out their vision of “The Living Street”, which to simplify it greatly is a community built around autonomous vehicles, where everything within the streetscape communicates with everything else. At the center of this communication is, you guessed it, data.

As part of a larger conversation surrounding share prices, and other companies who might be working on similar infrastructure projects, Hackett said “we have as much data in the future coming from vehicles, or from users in those vehicles, or from cities talking to those vehicles, as the other competitors that you and I would be talking about that have monetizable attraction.”

Just how much data do you think he is talking about? To put it into perspective, Hackett says “we have 100 million people in vehicles today, that are sitting in Ford blue-oval vehicles. That’s the case for monetizing opportunity…”

 The most obvious next question then, is exactly what sort of information do they have? Hackett elaborates: “We know what people make. How do we know that? It’s because they borrow money from us. And when you ask somebody what they make, we know where they work; we know if they’re married. We know how long they’ve lived in their house, because these are all on the credit applications.” Almost arrogantly, Hackett lets us know that “We’ve never ever been challenged on how we use that. And that’s the leverage we’ve got here with the data.”

 In the interview, Hackett does not go into too much detail about exactly what monetizing that data might entail. He does mention that it could be used for a variety of emergency and first responder solutions, but beyond that nothing. Could we see targeted advertising on our infotainment screens soon? Who knows, but we can be certain that Ford will be making money off of their customer’s data.

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