|Published:||Sep 24, 2012 5:57 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Sep 24, 2012 6:45 PM EDT|
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Big Brother is calling shotgun. Every time you start your car it's tracking your every move.
It's all because of a tiny computer you've probably never noticed. The area underneath your dashboard is the On-Board Diagnostics Port, the federal government has required all vehicles to have one since 1996. Your vehicle monitors more than a hundred different codes that tell it everything from the fuel status to your speed.
So what's being done with all this information?
Some people are willingly giving it up for a little extra cash.
"If I am a safe driver and I'm not driving that many miles, I shouldn't have to pay as much as that person who is driving erratically," said Justin Herndon with Allstate Insurance.
Herndon is describing the philosophy behind the insurance company's new data logging device Drive Wise, which is currently available in three states and could be in Florida by the end of the year.
Customers who sign up for the voluntary pay-as-you-go plan get a 10% discount for the first six months with additional discounts for drivers who are considered safe.
"A lot of people say 'I'm a really safe driver, this thing is perfect for me' this gives you an opportunity to prove how safe you are," Herndon said.
Several other insurance providers are offering data logging devices as well, including Progressive, State Farm, GMAC Insurance and Travelers.
The devices plug into your diagnostics port and measure when you're driving, how fast you're driving and how often you make a hard break. Allstate fives you a web portal where you can monitor your results.
But Mark Bonner, a Professor at Ave Maria School of Law, says there's a downside to having that much information readily available.
"If you have one of these (devices) in your car and you get in a terrible wreck, and it's your fault, you're going to be sorry you had that in your car because it's going to show how fast you were going before you collided with the person," said Bonner.
Bonner also points out what else the devices monitor. While the data logging devices used by insurance companies don't track your location right now, they do track when you are driving. Which could be held against you in a lawsuit, divorce or criminal proceeding.
"The more of this tracking you get, the less free society you have," Bonner said.
But are these privacy concerns blown out of proportion? After all this is the age of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, you can log online anytime of day and find out where several of your friends are located.
Plus, it can be a beneficial tool for parents. You'll be able to know when Junior takes a 2:00 AM joyride at 100 miles-per-hour.
It just depends how much you're willing to give up in order to save.
"There's a tradeoff between your pocketbook and your privacy," Bonner said.
Progressive Insurance, which offers Snapshot, says the company doesn't sell your information to other companies. Instead, the company says the information is only shared when given a court order, which representatives say is rare.
The insurance companies point out that the programs are voluntary at this point. Customers are allowed to opt in or opt out whenever they want.