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How Much Money Is Your Privacy Worth?

April 19, 2011

Chris Garlasco, Owner & Managing Partner - Founders Insurance Group

The technology explosion that we have witnessed over the past twenty years has simply been breathtaking. Just think about the introduction of the amazing fax machine just over twenty years ago and it has already become nearly obsolete. Maintaining one’s privacy has nearly become impossible in the internet age.

Like many new inventions, new technology can be used for the greater good of society or used to society’s detriment. Often times understanding the difference between the two is fairly easy. The invention of the automobile improved our society dramatically however when an automobile is used by a bank robber as a getaway vehicle, it’s easy to see that the technology has been used to society’s detriment.

It becomes more difficult when a new technology is sold to the public as something that is for the greater good when in fact it may be a ruse for something more insidious.

A local town in our area is planning on expanding cameras at intersections. This plan is being sold to the public as a safety tool in which the town will be able to not only see people running a red light, but the cameras will also be used to check for seatbelt usage and to peer into vehicles looking for illegal cell phone use. It’s all sounds like the greater good doesn’t it? I am all for seat belts and as a motorcyclist I am very much in favor of folks not using hand held cell phones while driving. But why does this proposed law creep me out? If the city is looking in my car to see if I have my seat belt on, what else are they looking at? It doesn’t bother some folks, but it crosses the line for me personally as invasion of privacy.

Insurance companies are no strangers to the use of your motor vehicle record in determining risk. Nearly two decades ago, companies also became privy to your credit score as a way determining your risk and rates. Both of these things have helped to lower rates for some people and raise them for others. It was sold to the public as for the greater good of all drivers. The question becomes, where do we draw the line between the greater good of the public and the greater good of the individual? The insurance industry is has now begun to embark on sticking a device in your car to monitor your driving habits. Someone will be able to tell how many times you exceeded the speed limit, how hard you hit your brakes, what time of the day or night you are driving and, well, you get the idea. Of course this is being packaged as a way to lower your rates so it must be a good thing, right?

Maybe this is the next step in helping you to save some money, the question is, “how much is your privacy worth to you?” Is saving $100 worth giving up your privacy? How about $150? At what dollar amount are you willing to relinquish some more of your privacy? What if you are left with no choice because so many people take advantage of this new technology that your price will skyrocket if you choose to not be a part of this vehicle monitoring pricing program? Today, this device is an option, tomorrow, it may not be. A lot will depend on public interest.

In 1980, the thought of an insurance company looking at your credit score as a tool to determine your rate was unimaginable. The question is what will tomorrow bring and how much are you willing to do in order to save some money? Every person will have a different point of view on this and I am not interested in swaying your opinion one way or another. I am however, interested in poking at your comfort zone and moving you to ask the question for yourself, “What’s my privacy worth?”

Have a great day!

Chris Garlasco

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