Progressive Convinces Customers to Consent to “Big Brother” Box

Today’s Daily Record reports that Progressive Insurance has convinced some of its customers to allow the installation of a “black box” in their vehicles that will track “abrupt starts and stops, speed, and even time of day.” The data from this device will be used to compute the auto insurance rates for the customers who consent to its install. They concede this device is not something that will appeal to all drivers.

We don’t stop and think about it much, but we are definitely no longer driving our father’s Oldsmobiles.  Today, we are driving a computer on wheels that stores treasure troves of personal data, including the date, time, and location of the vehicle, as well as acceleration and braking patterns, weather conditions, and the identities of the occupants.
Many states have established privacy safeguards for today’s vehicles.  Progressive seeks to jump through the big loophole to get to this information: customer consent.  If you put in this black box, we can reduce your insurance rates.
What is a black box?  A black box is an event data recorder that records the events and actions of the driver, including braking, braking, turning, and even if the driver is wearing a seatbelt.

My Take

big brother boxI’m not wildly protective of my privacy.  The FBI can listen in on any conversation of mine.  Although I do sometimes say things I’m embarrassed I said, I’m not doing anything that will get me in trouble.  I don’t even have a passcode on my cell phone.  But I realize I’m in the minority. Most people zealously guard their privacy and that interest must be protected.

I am reflexively against what an insurance company wants you to do.  My mind begins to make counterarguments before I even hear everything the insurance company has said.

But I do believe in the free market economy, too.  If you want to give up your rights to Progressive to knock a few bucks off your insurance premium, I will not try to stop you.  It is not ill-advised as long as you know what you are getting yourself into when you agree to let Progressive intrude into your life.

I am interested in the possible effect this could have on litigating car accident injury cases. It seems to me that the data compiled by this device would be a proper subject of discovery in litigation because it’s a real-time recording of the actions of the vehicle. This will probably lead to a host of objections based on proprietary data, the privacy of the driver, etc. Also, how would one get this decoded?  I don’t know.  But I know our accident reconstructionists will and that is all that matters.

I can’t imagine very many people would consent to such a device being installed, but eventually, somebody who has one will get sued, and some smart plaintiff’s lawyer will ask for the data. Then things will get interesting.