Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an online article about new devices insurance companies are using to monitor drivers. These devices have been available for years, but, like just like the exponential improvement of the transistor, they are becoming more reliable and less expensive every year. This has resulted in increased use by insurance companies.

Clearly, we have a lot of work to do if we want any privacy in our lives, or in the lives of our children. I’m not going to write about why privacy is important, or why we even have a reasonable expectation of privacy at all. I’m more interested in calling attention to whether or not we even recognize the changing tide.

Facebook users are a prime privacy target and probably don’t really recognize the change. In my own experience, Facebook users either have a very low expectation of privacy or they don’t think about it, and they should. Why? Almost daily, I see information from Facebook used in the employment context (more here regarding associated legal issues) and in lawsuits, often against the interest of the Facebook user.

In the car insurance business, the tracking device is akin to the insurance company saying, "We will insure you if you let us drive with you." Do you value your privacy so little that you want your agent or adjuster driving around town with you? Or, do you really want your adjuster asking why you slammed on your brakes (didn’t want to kill the squirrel). I don’t. I like to live according to an honor system. And so far (crossing my fingers), I haven’t used my insurance once. 

So, when the insurance company says they’ll give you a discount if they can install a tracking device in your car, ask yourself why it’s needed and whether it is worth the cost. And think about the next logical step: homeowners insurance telling you they will give you a discount if they install sensors and cameras in your home, especially in high-mold areas. Orwell was right, but his scope was a little off.


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