You Can Save Money if You Let Yourself Be Monitored at All Times

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Tyler Cowen flags an article today about Young Marmalade, “the UK’s young driver specialist,” which offers Britain’s youth a discount on their auto insurance if they install a black box in their car that allows their driving habits to be monitored. Apparently you also have to buy your car from Young Marmalade, and it has to be a low-powered car, but it’s the black box that’s new.

Though not as new as you might think. I’ve been watching commercials for over a year touting the “Snapshot” program from Progressive Insurance, and it’s pretty much the same thing. You get a black box from Progressive, plug it into your car’s diagnostic port, and they track your driving habits. If you drive safely, you get a discount. If you don’t drive safely — well, they say that nothing will happen at all. You’ll just keep paying your usual rate. I have no idea if that’s true in real life.

In any case, the whole thing is fairly crude, tracking only enough information to determine how many miles you drive and how often you make sudden stops. No GPS, no information about exceeding the speed limit, or anything like that. Just sudden stops. But how private is this information?

We won’t share Snapshot data with a third party unless it’s required to service your insurance policy, prevent fraud, perform research or comply with the law. We also won’t use Snapshot data to resolve a claim unless you or the registered vehicle owner gives us permission.

That actually seems like a pretty broad exemption, so your driving habits might not be quite as closely held as you’d like. And I wouldn’t be surprised if future black boxes get more sophisticated about the amount of information they collect. On the bright side, you can get a 30% discount on your insurance rate! When you consider that most of us are willing to turn over practically our entire private lives to online companies in return for a free song from the iTunes store, that’s probably pretty enticing. Welcome to the future.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate