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Are your phone apps collecting data on how you brake or speed? – Autoblog

Data about drivers’ habits are being downloaded from certain smartphone apps — sometimes without the driver’s knowledge or consent — and forwarded to auto insurers as a device to set rates. According to a recent report in The New York Times — which in March reported that data agency LexisNexis sold similar data from internet-connected cars to General Motors — a number of popular apps, including Life360, MyRadar and Gas Buddy are providing user data to an Allstate-owned company, Arity.

Those apps and others employ telematics to relay sensor and motion data that are transmitted by smartphones, according to the report. That information, the paper says, is crunched by Arity to formulate a “driving score” that measures behavior behind the wheel, such as distracted driving, speeding and sudden braking. Insurance companies buy the results, and experts say most people are unaware that they’re being tracked this way.

Those firms that collect the data say that consumers consent to have this information shared, and that they can opt-out of the process if they choose to, perhaps when they find they had consented initially without realizing it.

On GasBuddy, for instance, users can turn on a feature that rates the fuel efficiency of their drives, a feature “powered by Arity.” The company says users “agree to Arity’s privacy statement before they opt in to the Drives function.”

But, the report says, “this agreement is in small gray font under a big red button labeled ‘Join Drives.’ The tiny disclosure says simply that by clicking ‘Join Drives’ you will share ‘certain information’ with Arity and agree to Arity’s privacy statement, which is hyperlinked. The language does not explain what Arity is or does. The company sells access to the driving scores of tens of millions of people. Auto insurance companies can ‘request a person’s individual driving score, which is delivered instantly,’ according to Allstate’s website.”

Not all insurers are using Arity’s driving data, according to the story. Spokesmen for GEICO and USAA said they collected driving behavior only from people who downloaded a dedicated smartphone app to track how they drove.

On the other side of the ratings issue — which, at the end of the day, dictates how much one pays for auto insurance — is that “it could more accurately predict risk for individual drivers and be a fairer way to set rates,” the story says.

“There’s a lot of unfair discrimination in auto insurance,” Micheal DeLong of the Consumer Federation of America said. “Auto insurance companies use a lot of socioeconomic factors, like your credit score or your job or your education level, like whether you went to high school or to college or whether you’re married.”

People with poor credit scores pay much more for auto insurance even if they have clean driving records, DeLong has found. “Telematics has substantial promise for consumers, and it could be a way to better price auto insurance,”

Several other anecdotal stories are reported by the Times in the piece headlined, “Is Your Driving Being Secretly Scored?” It is available here; a subscription may be required.

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