Data privacy in the US: it’s not just public opinion that is changing

Date: Tuesday April 8, 2014

In the US, the situation is not much clearer than in Europe, but the general principle is: “If you have the data, you own it,” says Dr Adrian Moore from the Mileage Based User Fee Alliance.

It is undeniable that, while the transparency required in Europe has made it all too easy for consumers to worry about what data insurers are using and how, the lack of information about (and understanding of) the data used in the US UBI programmes has had a positive impact on UBI pick-up. You can’t complain about what you don’t know!

Yet things are changing fast and the industry is taking the first steps, maybe to prevent potential customer backlash. Ford’s CEO, Alan Mulally’s reaction was certainly a response to the GAO report (see forthcoming blog), but was also clearly a PR exercise in damage control following his marketing chief’s ill-advised announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014, that: “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing.”

On the other hand, the AAA recently published its Consumer Rights for Car Data, requesting the government and other organisations to help ensure the rights of transparency, choice and security regarding location data.

According to the AAA, about 20% of new cars sold this year will collect and transmit data outside the vehicle to improve safety and convenience for drivers. Within a decade, the majority of cars on the road will be connected in some way.

“Many connected car features are made possible through the collection of large amounts of potentially sensitive data from drivers,” said AAA CEO Bob Darbelnet. “Companies collecting, using and sharing data from cars should do everything possible to protect consumer rights as they offer these exciting technologies.”
The reasons are not entirely altruistic; transparency, choice and security are frequently cited among consumer concerns slowing drivers’ uptake of UBI.
Unsurprisingly, the AAA’s Consumer Rights for Car Data did not include data ownership, but apart from that, it mirrors the Association of British Insurers’ Good Practice Guide. Published in January 2014, it clearly aims to pave the road for the forthcoming car data service growth. The document calls for a driver’s right to:

  • Transparency – Consumers have a right to clearly understand what information is being collected from their vehicle and how it is being used. Businesses and the government should be transparent about the collection and use of vehicle data.
  • Choice – Consumers have a right to decide with whom to share their data and for what purpose. This includes on-going monitoring of vehicle systems, repair and any data of the vehicle owner’s choice.  Customers should not be forced to relinquish control as a condition of purchasing or leasing a vehicle or of receiving a connected-vehicle service.
  • Security – Consumers have a right to expect that connected-vehicle manufacturers and service providers will use reasonable measures to protect vehicle data systems and services against unauthorised access and misuse.

A full analysis of the repercussion of the Data Protection Act reforms can be found in the UBI Global study 2016. We’ll look at compliance and public opinion in more details next week.