ICBC will begin monitoring the driving behaviour of inexperienced drivers using telematics technology. The pilot project will invite up to 7,000 drivers with less than five years of experience to have a device installed in their car that tracks their behaviour behind the wheel.
This isn’t ICBC’s first foray into recording driver behaviour. According to CEO Nicolas Jiminez, “most” participants in a telematics trial earlier this year believed the technology would make roads safer.
ICBC will analyze a driver’s behaviour and produce an overall score in terms of the risk level. Constantly being under Big Brother’s watchful gaze would no doubt make you more conscious of your actions. Is it worth it, however, to so willingly sacrifice your privacy?
Invasion of privacy
ICBC is extolling the virtues of the technology and says it is launching the telematics pilot as a way to improve road safety, however, drivers should beware embracing the plan. It’s the first step down a path that leads to monitoring technology being installed in all vehicles all the time.
Just because the technology exists to do something doesn’t mean it should be used. There’s technology that can track your eyeball movements while you drive. It sounds like dystopian science fiction but it’s a very real possibility.
ICBC is not being clear about what exactly it is tracking. It says speeding, braking patterns and “level of distracted driving” will be recorded but we do not know how they are going to do so nor what metrics they are going to use. They talk about the benefits of telematics without mentioning the ethical dilemma it presents.
‘Us’ and ‘them’ mindset
You may well ask, why would someone volunteer to give up their private information? Are they really worried about road safety? A more likely explanation is they want to save money. People are more likely to think of themselves as good drivers and everyone else as bad. Why, therefore, should those who fall in the ‘good driver’ category have to pay higher insurance rates when its the ‘bad drivers’ having all the accidents?
It’s a fair question. Insurance providers in lots of countries offer discounts to people who go multiple years without an accident. Some people might view giving up their privacy as a small price to pay for cheaper auto insurance but make no mistake, this deal almost exclusively benefits ICBC.
Giving ICBC access to your every move just gives them more opportunity to find a way to wriggle out of your claim. Anyone who disputes an ICBC decision will find the insurer is holding all the cards. ICBC appears to be taking a leaf from Donald Trump’s campaign book by using people’s inherent biases to get them to agree to something that is not in their interest.
Passive data collection
It is hard to see how this kind of technology would get past privacy legislation. One ethical question telematics presents is all the passive data that is being collected. Every time you do a simple web search on Google or search for a product on Amazon, information is being collected about you to throw ads at you. Google or Amazon smart speakers can allegedly pick up on your conversations and suggest things for you to buy. Who’s to say telematics won’t track the places you are visiting? Or even sell that data to third parties? Imagine a future where advertisements for the gentleman’s club you ‘drive by on your way home from work’ start appearing on screens in your car.
Less piece of mind
Why do we buy insurance? Insurance gives us the piece of mind that if we have an accident we will not be out of pocket for things like repair costs, damage to property, harm to yourself or anyone involved in a crash.
In exchange for accepting this agreement, ICBC charges you a fee every month. If you suddenly have a system where the insurer knows your every move leading up to an accident, it shifts the balance of this agreement in favour of the insurer. They will have more opportunity to deny you insurance. ICBC has already announced plans to limit the amount it pays out to its customers so if they can find a loophole, they are certainly going to use it.