Central Ohio Consumers Weigh Costs Of Giving Up Driving Information To ‘Big Brother’

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In the big data age, should you willingly give up your information to put money back in your pocket?

That’s the question many central Ohio consumers are asking themselves as they decide whether to opt into certain car insurance programs these days.

Major auto insurance companies, including Progressive, State Farm and Allstate, have programs that monitor drivers’ behind-the-wheel habits.

The pros include discounts for good driving and safe drivers; the cons are that someone is tracking yet another thing you do.

Every time Ashok Amin gets behind the wheel, or a member of his family hits the road, they know one thing.

“You are monitored,” he said.

It was Amin’s choice to track his mileage, how hard he brakes, the time of day he travels and his speed.

The device that monitors all of that is part of Allstate’s Drivewise program.

You plug it in, and it beams data to the insurance company, and then subscribers get a report card. Good grades for good driving mean discounts.

Allstate officials say they are using the technology to fine tune rates and be more competitive.

“We had up to a 22-percent discount,” Amin said. “We started at the beginning of the year.”

Allstate agency owner Frank Lengal said, “Some customers also like it when they have youthful operators in the house because they know how the kids are driving.”

But is the monitoring “Big Brother-ish”?

“There appear to be real benefits,” said Dennis Hirsch, a professor at Capital University Law School. “There also appear to be potential privacy costs.”

Hirsch said that customers should think about where the information goes and who might have access to it before they willingly share information.

“It also might say something about your risk for other insurance products like life insurance and health insurance,” he said.

Hirsch said that privacy policies should tell consumers whether there is information sharing – even within the same company.

It’s up to the consumer to check that and weigh the risks and benefits, though.

Allstate representatives, who responded to 10TV’s calls, said that about a third of their new car insurance customers enroll in Drivewise.  

Hirsch, the law professor, said that before you beam info over, also ask how secure it is, especially considering it shows you away from your home during certain times.  

If location is part of the data, you need to know who specific that is because that’s a huge personal reveal.

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