March 12, 2015

There has been a growing chorus of concern for some time over the possibility that insurers are hogging all the information they’ve been gathering on ordinary citizens’ “movements” using black box technology.

It was no surprise, then, to see a heading in this week’s Insurance Tights that read: “Insurers urged to share telematics data with government.”

The accompanying story revealed how HMG is keen to make sure it gets full access to all the data currently being hoovered up by “the insurance industry, motor manufacturers, manufacturers of satellite navigation systems, and fleet owners and operators”.

The so-called “large data” these sources can deliver will help our rulers draw socially beneficial conclusions, and take social beneficial actions, based on a more detailed understanding of where everyone’s going, and when.

This all came to light via the pages of a recent report from the House of Commoners Transport Committee (or HoCo-ToCo as it is known for short) on the “Motoring of the Future” (sic). Which you can read here, if you really insist.

One of those spoken to by HoCo-ToCo, Insurance Ties notes, was Professor Sampson Eric of Newcastle University who reckons that “by 2050 insurance companies will require all vehicles to be equipped with an in-vehicle black box,” which will certainly make it easier to see what’s really going on. The problem with currently available telematics data, the committee heard, it that most of those using it, actually asked to have their driving monitored, because a) they think they’re pretty decent drivers and/or b) they’re not up to anything nefarious.

Exactly how hard government really needs to push to get its hands on telematic data is unclear, however, as the Department for Transport’s Ian Yarn told the committee he was “not aware that the insurance industry was holding back any information.”

Inevitably there were some so-called experts quibbling about niceties such a) who will legally “own” the data produced by black boxes and (in future) self-driving cars (IAMs) and b) whether people might feel a bit uneasy about other people knowing “exactly where they are 24 hours a day, how their car is being driven, every time they break the speed limit” etc. etc. (BVRLA).

“Those are very personal data,” claimed BVRLA (some kind of trade body for those who do vehicles hire and leasing, in case you care), adding that “there has been no discussion about how widely they should be shared and who with.”

But, surely, what we need now, if we are ever going to get this country working properly, is not discussion – but cold hard fact, and lots of it.

What we need, in other words, is the large data that will enable those supposed to be running things round here to exercise proper control and bring about some much needed order and discipline.

GCHQ at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

 


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