Progressive Insurance way, way buries the lead on this press release, titled “Better New York drivers pay less for car insurance with one-of-a-kind program from Progressive.”
It’s not until the third paragraph that the company mentions it wants drivers to plug in a monitoring device for six months to measure data such as when people drive, how fast they drive and how often they make sudden stops:
After drivers sign up for the Snapshot program, we send them a device that fits in the palm of their hand and plugs into the on-board diagnostic (OBD) port of their car. The device records and sends the driving data to us.
Progressive customers who try Snapshot can save up to 30 percent depending on how safe their habits are.
This model is a more efficient way to price insurance, a way to reward good drivers and potential evidence in case of an accident. You can track your driving habits by logging onto a website.
People who aren’t policy holders can sign up to find out what their rates would be. (Only Progressive customers can sign up for the program.) The company says it will only use the data to verify a claim if you ask them to.
It sounds pretty attractive–but it’s also a bit creepy. This is a bigger privacy issue than say, a CVS card.
The Snapshot device doesn’t track location–there’s no GPS–but it knows how many miles you drive, how fast you drive, how fast you stop and possibly more. You could derive other data points from time and speed and use this data to figure out, for example, how fast someone was going two weeks ago at 3 p.m.
The data is attached to your name and Progressive says it will share the data with a third party if “it’s required to service your insurance policy, prevent fraud, perform research or comply with the law.”
Progressive keeps the data, attached to your name, for some time and then anonymizes it:
To meet our legal obligations to state departments of insurance, we keep information from Snapshot for the time we determine is required by law. Then, we’ll remove personally identifiable information and keep the generic data.
The amount of time Progressive stores your data varies state by state.
Most people save money with the program, said Susan Rouser, a spokeswoman for Progressive, and Progressive won’t increase your rates if you sign up for Snapshot.
From CVS to Foursquare to Google, discounts or rewards for data is now pretty standard. The boom in location-enhanced mobile apps is tempering the paranoia one might feel about a bug that beams information about you to a megacorporation. Snapshot is already available in 27 states without causing an uproar. We’re sure New Yorkers will love it too.
ajeffries [at] observer.com | @adrjeffries