“Big Brother” concerns persist but continuous satellite tracking of cars looks likely

by | Sep 12, 2012 | Technology | 0 comments

While the loss of privacy in this increasingly Orwellian “Big Brother” surveillance age concerns many, not least after the recent revelation that many UK schools are using CCTV cameras in school toilets and changing rooms, other types of continuous surveillance that would have been previously resisted in times past are now becoming accepted as “normal”.   Car insurance is one sector where this is happening after a significant uptake in “Telematics” policies which employ continuous surveillance via satellite tracked “black box” car devices.

The “Telematics” insurance schemes offers drivers a lower price in exchange for agreeing to install a GPS satellite tracking device in their cars.   The technology keeps a complete record of locations visited and speed of the vehicle – and importantly can detect a dangerous driving style has been used on the vehicle e.g. whether the driver has been speeding or braking suddently.  The “carrot” offered to drivers agreeing to use this technology is a significant discount of up to 20% to their insurance premium rates. The uptake has been surprisingly fast with the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) announcing that 200,000 drivers in the UK are now using the system and that a further 300,000 are expected to join up in the next two years.

Some drivers are not aware that their could be downsides for them using such systems.  For example,  such tracking technology could be used in prosecutions as evidence of speeding of careless driving.  While this may be a good thing for public safety, privacy campaigners warn that if telematics use increases, there may be government legislation to fit such devices in all cars and trucks – effectivelly giving the state a complete record of vehicle movements.  Having said that, in reality, this may have already happened via the stealthy introduction of networked Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.  

As it is there are predictions that by 2017 more than 60% of all new cars will have telematics systems including tracking devices, installed on delivery – ableit that other applications such as internet connectivity is the main driver here. Critics also point out that while insurers currentlly offer a financial incentive to drivers to take such a system, this may not be the case if every vehicle has to have one.



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