How to stop Insurance Companies & Automakers from Stealing California Driver’s Privacy

Jamie Court from Consumer Watch dog writes, carmakers and auto insurance companies are trying to track your every movement in your car and use that information against you.  Now Californians have a chance to stop them.

Consumer Watchdog’s report, “Connected Cars and The Threat To Your Privacy,” reveals how rules being drafted by California’s new privacy commission (under voter-approved Prop 24) could, for the first time, allow you to opt out of your precise geolocation being tracked… if, and only if, the carmakers and auto insurance companies fail in their lobbying blitz to get exemptions.

For example, insurance companies want to use what neighborhoods you travel in and how fast you brake to charge you more for auto insurance.  According to a secret recording of an insurance industry meeting, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is quietly working with insurance companies to lift the current ban on the use of telematics — car-transmitted data — to price your auto insurance.

Jamie Court requested that consumers  watch this short video about Insurance Commissioner Lara’s flip flop on insurance company surveillance and send him an email asking him to stand with consumers, not insurance companies.

As the report details, we are on the precipice of a sea-change in privacy where companies will have to honor our choices about how our private information is collected and used it. It requires our vigilance.  Please take a moment to send a message to Commissioner Lara.

Among the abuses identified in the report are:

• 13 leading automakers reviewed by the United States General Accounting Office reported collecting, using and sharing data from connected vehicles’ location and operations.

• Car companies, including General Motors, Toyota, Ford, reserve the right to collect, use and share data in order to track and market products.

•  Car manufacturers are working with software companies to bring advertising right into the dashboard. Information from Chevy’s OnStar Service is directly fed to apps for Dominos, IHOP, and Shell, among others. Geolocation data customers include retailers like Starbucks, so they can better know when a person is likely to buy a cup of coffee.

• Telenav, a software company developing in-car advertising software, touts its “freemium” model popularized by streaming services such as Hulu and Spotify, where in exchange for free services, consumers will be flashed with ads. Pop-up car ads could generate an average of $30 annually per car. In a post on its website, “Why in-car advertising works,” Telenav’s case amounted to, “advertising is worth it to the consumer,” while disregarding safety and privacy. In this auto surveillance-commerce world, Telenav said there is a large opportunity to capitalize on the $212 billion commuters spend while driving.

• Companies tracking us in our cars often claim they traffic in  “anonymized data.” Anonymized data, when paired with other data points such as credit card usage, can be used to identify you and target you, according to car technologists and privacy advocates interviewed by Consumer Watchdog. Manufacturers have teamed up with data miners to geolocate cars in real time. Wejo, which touts its mobility data of over 10 million connected cars, claims to see the speed in which cars are traveling on 95 percent of U.S. roads.

• One of the biggest misconceptions is that technology is making driving safer. It isn’t. The number of deaths per 100,000 miles driven grew in 2020 by almost 25 percent, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), marking the highest annual increase that the NSC has recorded in nearly 100 years. 2021 saw an increase in traffic fatalities, prompting the federal government to act.

• California’s insurance market is the epicenter of the latest fight over use the telematics, data transmitted from cars. California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara recently started a Twitter fight with Elon Musk over using telematics data collected by cars in insurance rate setting, vowing to protect, “consumer data, privacy and fair rates.” However, an investigation by Consumer Watchdog has found Lara is privately working with insurance companies on a proposal to allow electronic surveillance in California once he has the “political cover” to pull it off.