How your car might be selling you out to insurers

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There’s a reason your auto insurance premium may be going up. It’s not that you had an accident or any traffic violations on your record. Instead, as some people are discovering, insurance companies are sourcing personal driving data from car manufacturers that can reveal if you are a higher risk to insure.

Nowadays, with everything going digital, the intersection of privacy and technology has extended into the automotive industry, with a concerning trend emerging around vehicles acting as sources for collecting sensitive data.

This includes sharing drivers’ behaviors with insurance companies, a practice that has brought to light significant privacy concerns among vehicle owners.

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A woman driving the highway (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Speeding, hard braking and rapid acceleration

A case in point involves a software company owner from Seattle who found his car insurance premiums increased by 21 percent unexpectedly despite a clean driving record, according to a New York Times report.

CAR INSURANCE RATES IN 2024 JUMP 26% ACROSS THE US, REPORT SAYS

This led to the discovery of a data broker that specializes in generating consumer risk profiles for insurers, which had comprehensive records of his driving habits, including details on speeding, hard braking and rapid acceleration.

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A woman driving in her convertible (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Permission to spy is often hidden in the fine print

This practice is widespread, with drivers across the country often unknowingly giving consent for their driving data to be shared with third parties, including insurers. This consent is frequently hidden in the extensive privacy policies and fine print, making it difficult for the average consumer to notice. Automotive manufacturers, in partnership with data brokers, are leveraging systems to gather and analyze data directly from internet-connected vehicles.

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While there are claims that the objective behind collecting driving data is to encourage safer driving habits through feedback programs, it appears the primary motivation is financial profit. This data collection not only impacts insurance rates but also feeds into a growing market where driving data is treated as a commodity.

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A man driving down the highway in his car (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Demand for consumer protection laws

The legal and ethical issues surrounding such data collection practices have garnered attention from policymakers and privacy advocates alike. There have been calls for investigations by federal agencies into these practices, highlighting potential violations related to unfair and deceptive business practices that harm consumers.

For consumers looking to protect their privacy and avoid potential financial impacts from these data-sharing practices, several proactive steps can be taken.

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A man driving down the highway in his car (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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How to discover what data your car is collecting about you

1. Search Google with your carmaker and the phrase “privacy request form.” In the case of my two cars, it sent me to the manufacturers’ forms, where you can fill out a request to see what sort of data is being recorded.

2. Review any app connected to your car. Look for terms and conditions on the app to discover any permissions you may have inadvertently given your carmaker to collect. If it permits you, copy and paste the fine print into ChatGPT or another generative AI source to reveal what private data is being collected by your car. See if there are choices to opt out of data collection in the app settings.

3. Understanding vehicle data capabilities. Tools are available online to help understand what data your vehicle can collect. You can enter your vehicle identification number at the website www.vehicleprivacyreport.com to broadly learn more about what data may be captured from your car.

4. Get your LexisNexis report at https://consumer.risk.lexisnexis.com/consumer. You have the right to request reports from data brokers to see what information is collected about your driving habits.

It’s important to carefully review privacy policies and terms of service when purchasing a vehicle or signing up for connected services, opting out of data-sharing features where possible.

Kurt’s key takeaways 

As vehicles become increasingly connected, it’s crucial for you to remain vigilant and informed about how your data is being used, ensuring you maintain control over your personal information and mitigate any undesired financial consequences.

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