How much is privacy worth?

November 14, 2011

There’s a particularly annoying commercial on TV for Progressive Insurance. It’s the one where the spokeswoman is dressed all in white and the sets are white as well. They run this thing endlessly on cable to the point where you don’t notice them anymore. So you might not have noticed their newest trick…..what they call a “cool” device you’re supposed to plug into your car that will record braking, speed, how far you’ve driven and the time of day you did the driving. That’s right; they want you to voluntarily bug your own car so you can receive a “discount.” They don’t tell you what that “cool” device does, they just say in their cutesy way that it records your good driving.

I put “discount” in quotes since what constitutes a discount depends on the eye of the beholder. Like Obama’s jobs “created or saved” it’s a false measurement. If they charge you $100 they can always say you saved 20% since they were going to charge you $125. Apparently you’re supposed to send it to them and they examine this little bugging device and then determine if and how much “discount” you are going to get.

Progressive tried this intrusive trick in Minnesota. They got some people to bug their cars in return for some trivial discounts and that persuaded them that there are enough stupid people that will give up their privacy for a few bucks from their car insurance to push the gadget as a “cool” accessory.

Of course the company sets what your “discount” is. Obviously if you don’t drive many miles, drive slowly, don’t drive at night, and don’t brake hard they’re willing to knock a few bucks off your bill. Of course they determine how many miles, etc. you have to do to get up to a 25% discount. Don’t drive and you get a discount. Simple as that.

This is a chance to see just how your liberty and privacy are curtailed by big business. You’re in on the ground floor of buying insurance based on how many miles you drive, how fast, and when. If this spreads to other companies you can expect to have your car bugged with more and more data fed to your insurance company. It always happens. It starts small and grows and grows. And they know you’ll go for it in the name of saving money!

Other companies have tried smaller modified versions of this intrusive gimmick. GMAC and State Farm both gave it a whirl. Neither have gone this far. Other insurance companies will sit back and watch Progressive and see how many suckers they can draw in, and it works you can expect your company to be insisting that you have a bug in your car to get that company set “discount.”

This is a good field for the Legislature to act. If you want to see Michigan go this way than stay silent and it will. The insurance industry is powerful in this state. If you want to see car bugging outlawed before it spreads further let you State Representative and State Senator know how you feel. If you don’t you’d better get ready to drive wired.

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