For a price, would you let car insurer along for the ride? - asks a USA Today
technology story by Kevin Maney. It seems that Progressive Insurance and IBM
have worked out a scheme to pay drivers to be safer - by monitoring their every
move in their own cars, and how fast they make that move, and where they park,
and what time they drive.
Drivers must attach an electronic monitor to
their cars that downloads information which is generated and stored there in
diagnostic chips included in most newer model vehicles. As they drive, it stores
current driving behaviour - and location - and driving times and at the end of
the defined time, drivers take the unit into the house, attach a USB cable and
download that information into their computer and transmit it to Progressive.
But the insurance discount program does have an interesting twist in the
Minnesota test. Apparently drivers who see from their downloaded information (or
just know they drove badly at times) that they exceeded maximum speed limits,
drove during expensive times (2am when bars close is most expensive, after 11pm
is next) can choose NOT to send that information to Progressive and pay the
normal undiscounted insurance rate.
It appears to have the true benefit of
making drivers become more cautious and drive within limits of the law during
safe hours. There is nothing wrong with this for those willing to give up the
information. This allows those willing to be monitored the choice to send the
information to their insurer and get a discount or NOT send it to pay normal
rates. It's worth considering.
I'm among those who continues to use
supermarket loyalty cards, even though I despise the fact that they can see my
purchase history and note my travel habits. The savings are just too great to
pass up. (I used a false name to set the card up, but quickly noted that they
tied together my debit card name and loyalty card purchases, thus gaining that
information that I had denied them with the false name - now I use cash.) You
certainly can't do the same with the insurance driving discounts. Information
must be accurate to properly insure and discount the policy.
program is more invasive and offers far less choice. Drivers must always
download the information from the car module to gain insurance discounts and the
British company monitors more information from those UK drivers.
version may have some merit if choice remains a part of the equation upon full
rollout to American drivers who want that ten percent discount on auto insurance
policies in exchange for giving up the privacy of their driving habits.
The disturbing part of this, again, as always, is the possible merging of
multiple databases to form near perfect surveillance pictures of us with each
new development. Our supermarket discounts show that big database what we eat,
what else we buy at the grocery, the insurance information defines our travels
and schedule, our credit and debit card use defines our spending, travel and
lifestyles, while multiple other databases from airline security info to phone
records can be merged at any time to form near perfect pictures of our lives for
anyone that wants to access it.
Once a national ID (driver licenses will
soon carry mandatory magnetic information and will serve as a defacto national
ID), we can be fully monitored, tracked, analyzed and digitized to form a truly
invasive database of numbers and bits of information about each of us.
sources of data are growing daily
about each of us. The concern is the loss or
abuse of that data through commercial and/or governmental negligence and/or
criminal intent. The methods to access that data are growing as the sources
Privacy is something we give up in small bits for small
benefits, like cheaper produce using supermarket loyalty cards and insurance
discounts using car monitors hooked up to our insurance carrier. We need laws to
control and safe guard each of those databases and stop any merging of those
multiple sources of data into the ultimate Big Brother database.
I want my
car insurance reduced and I'm willing to consider this newest scheme if I have
choice of whether to send my info to my insurer. I will send it when I've been
good and won't when I have been less good. But I don't want it merged with my
other sources of data or shared among commercial interests who may see fit to
sell it to each other.