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Trading Privacy for Lower Insurance Premiums

Modern technology has now made it possible for various people to keep track of other people’s behaviour, including their vehicle usage. Although this technology has been around in diverse forms for years, it is now becoming more widespread and much more sophisticated. In mankind’s race to make the world a safer place for all, many rights to privacy have been waivered. Now some insurance companies want consumers to voluntarily give up even more of their privacy, allegedly for the sake of lowering insurance premiums.

How many people would be willing to trade privacy just to save a few pounds off their insurance premiums? Apparently, not as many people as some insurance companies had expected would willingly give up their privacy. Numerous insurers, including Norwich Union, had hoped a “pay-as-you-drive” insurance cover would become popular.

This type of cover involved using a combination of information and communication technology known as telematics. The insurer would install a black box about the size of a DVD case into the boot of your car, and it would collect data about your vehicle usage and driving habits. Then all the information would be relayed to the insurer once a month via computers. The insurer would then itemize the monthly bill to charge you for the actual type of driving you did in that vehicle.

However, after two years of experimenting with the telematics-based covers, Norwich Union has placed their pay-as-you-go plans on hold. One reason is due to car manufacturers not installing in-car GPS devices as quickly as was expected. The manufacturers only install such devices in their high-end models, so those who would benefit most from this type of cover would have to pay for the GPS device installation out of their own pockets. This expensive procedure deters many would-be customers. Norwich Union has already decided that it was too expensive to make it profitable for the insurers to install the device themselves.

Another reason the pay-as-you-go telematics-based covers were placed on hold was due to the lack of interest shown by the consumers. Insurers dismissed the idea of consumers’ privacy breach concerns, believing the Data Protection Act of 1988 would make people feel safer. However, after two years, approximately only a little more than 10,000 consumers have taken advantage of the covers. It’s believed that many consumers shied away from using the pay-as-you-go covers due to the recent data breach incidents which have occurred in the United Kingdom. Some of these major data breaches affected Norwich Union directly, and several fraudsters were successful in breaching Norwich Union’s data storage systems in 2007.

However, Norwich Union and other insurers still believe that telematics-based covers will eventually become a primary standard in the insurance industry. They may indeed be right. Thousands of people voluntarily, even if somewhat unknowingly, allow themselves to be tracked daily through mobile phones and other products containing GPS or GMS technology.

Law enforcement and other government officials already access this data, as well as data transmitted by traffic and security cameras to locate people of interest to them. Moreover, the government is getting every citizen used to not having any privacy left due to terrorist threats. Eventually, not having privacy will seem like a common day standard, so it will seem normal for your insurance company to be tracking you while you drive.

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