Progressive, Allstate and State Farm are promoting programs to install sensors in customer’s vehicles to figure out how location data can be used to rate drivers. The companies are tracking things like how often customers slam on the brakes and how far they drive. The insurers state that the goal is to better identify safe drivers and offer them discounts on premiums.
You should think twice before allowing your automobile insurer to gather information about your vehicle’s movements. Unfortunately, you could end up being surcharged because of when and where you drive. Do you have a long commute to work? Are you driving between midnight and 4 am on week nights? Are you driving through neighborhoods disfavored by auto insurers? Are you a “hard breaker?” These data could identify you as a riskier driver and increase your insurance rates.
For now, these programs are voluntary. The company will need your consent to gather this information. Some of these programs are based on smart-phone applications. By giving this consent, you give up your right of privacy. Many of us spend a lot of time in our vehicles. Do you want “Big Brother Insurance Company” monitoring your personal life? You will not know what happens with the data once it is collected. Will it be sold to third parties? When you make a claim in connection with an automobile collision, this data could be obtained in response to a subpoena in connection with a civil lawsuit.
It is important to consider whether you want to sacrifice your privacy for a potential premium reduction. The potential front-end benefit may not be worthwhile when the time comes for the insurer to pay out money for your claim.
Lower Your Car Insurance Bill, at the Price of Some Privacy, The New York Times, August 15, 2014