Thursday, February 14, 2008

The GPS Dilemma: Tales from the P&C side

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Last year, my better half bought me a GPS for my birthday. It's very cool, very helpful, very convenient. I have the voice set to "Female, British," which may be somewhat masochistic, but it's also kinda fun (I call her "Monique"). It's not a high-end unit, but it certainly gets the job done.
That job, of course, is to help me get from Point A to Point B in a reasonable amount of time.
But could it do more?
Now this is something I hadn't considered. I consider the little widget a convenience tool, but perhaps it's got a dark side, as well:
"These devices have the potential to track you wherever you go, and the question is, who is going to have access to this data?"
So asks Guilherme Roschke, Skadden Fellow with the Electronic Privacy Information Center. His concern (which is shared by others) is that the technology that can give us quick directions, insurance discounts and enable worried parents to track their teenaged divers can also give us mileage taxes, and potential loss of 5th amendment rights.
But the potential trade-offs have an up side, as well:
Safeco, for example, offers discounts to parents who install such devices in their teens' vehicles. And Ivox (an Atlanta-based company that works with commercial insurers) "has been using GPS units equipped with sensing technology for commercial fleets to monitor driver behavior." This can help lower fleet insurance costs.
As is so often the case when looking at new tech, there are no clear-cut answers. For now, I'll probably just keep my low-end, portable GPS unit in the glove-box when not in use.
Hope that's okay with Monique.
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