Stop Covert Data Collection for Better Consumer Trust and Road Safety

March 15, 2024

The automotive world was rocked this week by a New York Times article revealing that some car makers are selling driving data collected from cars to insurers without clear owner consent. Some owners are so angry that they’re selling their vehicles and rejecting these brands.

There are two very different approaches to data collection for usage-based insurance (UBI) programs. One, described in the Times, breaks trust by collecting data secretly; the other builds trust and improves safety. 

The approach detailed in Times about covert data collection without consent violates consumer trust. Such data collection is not only questionable behavior, but by not informing drivers, it achieves no public safety benefit. If people don’t know that their driving affects how much they pay for insurance, they won’t be able to improve their behaviors.

At CMT, we take a very different approach in the programs we power with many dozens of insurers in the US and around the world. We stand for transparency and control over one’s driving data. Making programs opt-in with clear consent in simple language is our uncompromising standard. The opt-in process should educate drivers and give them a true choice to share their data with insurers. Drivers should always be aware of the program they enroll in and have the ability to turn it off whenever they like.

These practices build and maintain consumer trust, which is essential for improving road and driver safety. Consumers have the right point of view. The Times captured it well: 

Omri Ben-Shahar, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said he was in favor of usage-based insurance — where insurers monitor mileage and driving habits to determine premiums — because people who are knowingly monitored are better drivers. “People drive differently,” he said. “The impact on safety is enormous.”

We see the result of this mindset across the many millions of drivers on our platform every day. Drivers improve most and save the most money when they engage (not while driving!) with UBI apps and receive feedback strategically. The driver is in complete control and is aware of how their driving impacts their premium and their safety on the road.

Our research presented at the 2024 Transportation Research Board has shown time and again that actively engaging with a mobile telematics app makes drivers safer. Highly engaged drivers are 65% safer and 57% less distracted. The most engaged risky drivers reduce their chance of a bodily injury claim by 5.5%. 

We urge everyone in the mobility industry to take the issue of consumer trust seriously. Both consumer trust and road safety hang in the balance.