In addition to health insurance companies invading their customers’ privacy as I blogged about earlier in the week, there seems to be a similar trend with car insurance. As opposed to simply trusting customers to report their driving habits, car insurance companies are starting to place surveillance devices in cars to record this information directly. No one (yet) is required to submit to this invasion of privacy in order to buy car insurance, but companies are offering discounts to those who do.
For example, beginning in 2009, Progressive rolled out a program called MyRate, which uses an in-car telematic device that collects data about driving speed, acceleration and deceleration, distance, and time of day, enabling customers to receive discounts based on what the data show. If you live in MA, you have likely seen TV ads for its successor, Snapshot, which debuted in 2010 and operates the same way. Similar programs in other states include DriveWise by Allstate and Drive Safe and Save by State Farm. Other programs use GPS to track location. More and more insurance companies are expected to start similar programs in the coming years.
Surveys have shown that many people are disturbingly willing to sacrifice their privacy rights to save money. According to one poll by CarInsurance.com, 64% of people would allow a breathalyzer in their cars, 38% would accept a data-monitoring device like those described above, 37% would accept a cellphone-disabling device, and 20% would accept an in-car surveillance camera.
Some might argue that there’s nothing wrong with giving people the option of sacrificing some privacy for a cheaper rate, but as I wrote in my earlier blog post on health insurance, rewarding people for giving up privacy is the same as punishing people for keeping their privacy. And the punishment could become more ominous in the future. In an interview with the New York Times, Shamik Lala of the consulting firm A.T. Kearney predicted that the insurance industry will view privacy-free policies as standard in five years, and people who wish to keep their privacy will be viewed as risky drivers. We should fight back against the increasing surveillance of our lives. Privacy is a fundamental right, and people shouldn’t be financially penalized for exercising it.