Black Box Car Insurance Comes to Canada

21 Mar ’05

Aviva Insurance has announced that it is launching “pay as you go” car insurance in Canada. These types of programs, which have been launched elsewhere, are based on the notion that data collected by a “black box” installed in the car can, if the driver qualifies, entitle the driver to considerable discounts.

Tyler Hamilton reported on the program in The Toronto Star today – details on the Aviva program are in his story, details on others are here, here and here, and discussions of car manufacturer “black box” data collection are here, here, here and here.

It seems clear that the programs will be implemented despite concerns that have been raised regarding privacy and use of the data for purposes other than as intended. This will make insurance cheaper for some and more expensive for others, and to the extent that it will allow more finely-tuned price discrimination, will likely mean higher revenues down the road for the industry. Will this be the first step in the progressive restriction of insurance such that consumers will be required to have such devices installed in order to be insured? Perhaps we’ll eventually see the integration of car manufacturer systems and insurance reporting of data. In any event, inevitably the systems and this use of data will spread, and as a society we’re going to have to come to grips with how the data can be used – even against us – and decide whether we want to place limits on acceptable use.

Tyler interviewed me for the story and one of the concerns I expressed was the creeping advancement of surveillance in our society. This is not news – privacy advocates have been making this point for years – but as the technology advances and becomes less expensive to implement, the objects that pervade our lives will increasingly be surveilling us – inevitably, in every waking moment. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that how we as a society decide to use and protect that information will be one of the great social policy challenges of this generation.

Previous post:

Next post: