Privacy concerns still plague telematics

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One of the biggest concerns with telematics, isn’t the installation cost or figuring out how to apply all of the metrics in a way that will improve your fleet, but privacy. On a personal level this could be anything from an insurer taking a bit too much interest in where you go during your day, or how secure are a company’s data servers that store the information about what you do? It can get much more complicated however, as in some court cases, telematics data is now being requested on drivers and insurers and other firms are handing it over, but are they legally allowed to?

“It certainly is an intriguing new thing,” said Don Slavik (via CrainsDetroit), a product liability lawyer.  “It introduces some questions of privacy issues that people aren’t aware of. I wasn’t aware of some of this stuff until recently.” While he has yet to use any form of telematics data in a court case himself, he said that the practice is an interesting one, since there’s simply so much data to work with. He even pointed out during the statement that telematics doesn’t collect one or two pieces of information an hour, it’s collecting 10-20 different metrics a second.

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Also, there isn’t a lot a consumer can do about their data being looked at by the courts either, as the privacy policies for most auto-makers and insurers suggest that in the event of a court order, they will provide your data. However, depending on your provider, there might not be as much data being collected on you as you think. For example, Ford’s Sync system only collects location information if you’re using the satellite navigation features. It also only gives out certain bits of data on you with your direct permission, very little of it is transferred covertly over wireless networks.

There’s also the question of reliability of data. Some manufacturers have stated that while their telematics systems can provide some insight into what happened during an accident, they can’t be entirely relied upon either. If it is decidedly used in the court room, the lawyers on the other side may want to know certain information about its retrieval, like who was responsible for downloading it? What was done with the data after it was extracted from the vehicle? The point there being, that with so many data points, it would be easy to manipulate them in a difficult to trace manner.

The fact that all these people would even have access to the data too, raises new questions about personal privacy and about how much data on us that companies should really be allowed to have. This could end up meaning that telematics data doesn’t actually see much usage in court. That’s a sentiment echoed by many, who believe that simply because telematics hardware is designed to apply to insurer prediction engines and risk management tools, as well as providing tracking features for fleet managers, that it simply isn’t designed to service the court room and will therefore always be substandard at it.

What do you guys think?

Image sources: Sean MacEntee, MBWA PR

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.