NMA E-Newsletter #122: Pot Calling The Kettle Black

A few weeks ago the cast of characters that comprise the foundation of the Nanny State, mustered a faux rage over the use of iPhone applications that identify road blocks and speed traps.

It was the typical shrill complaint about making it possible for drunk drivers and speeders (no mention of child molesters, however) to avoid being arrested for their nefarious behavior. The ink was barely dry when the issue faded into the background of pretend cultural crises.

This week the shoe is on the other foot.

The navigation device company Tom Tom has discovered that the data it collects on users travel patterns (read, how fast they’re driving and where) is being sold by middlemen to law enforcement agencies. And what are our public servants doing with this information? Why they are using it to determine the most profitable locations to set up speed traps.

Presumably, this activity was first noted in the Netherlands, where Tom Tom is located, but the company admits the data has been sold in many other countries, including the US.

Tom Tom management has put the wheels in motion to stop this practice and prevent the use of its data to position speed traps. That said, this use of travel data seems rather superfluous, especially in the US, where almost all of the speed limits are at least 10 MPH lower than prevailing traffic speeds.

Any local police department already knows where its officers can set up camp and issue speeding tickets by the bucket full. They don’t need sophisticated technical equipment, a 15 MPH school zone speed limit works just fine.

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