Data from your car could be sold to insurance companies, others

News4Jax uncovers how shared information could cost you

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We're learning when it comes to technology someone is always listening. From data breaches to social media hacks, there really is no such thing as private information anymore. But did you know your car is collecting data on you every time you turn it on? And, did you know that information can be sold to third parties -- whether you know it or not?

News4Jax has been looking into the collection, and sometimes distribution, of drivers' data for months and found connected cars have a lot to say. Whether you speed or slam on the brakes, that information is not only stored, but it can be sold to manufacturers, brought up in a court case, or even used by your insurance company -- which could cost you. We turned to data security consultant Kevin Johnson for answers.

"I didn't realize this many people had my data," Consumer Investigator Lauren Verno said to Johnson, who is the CEO of Secure Ideas.

"Let's be clear, everybody has your data," he responded.

If you're wondering when you gave permission for your information to be collected, Johnson says it's in the fine print.

"More than likely, when you bought the car, in those thousands of papers that you signed," Johnson explained. "Sometimes, when you first buy the car and you turn it on, on the interface it will pop up something like, 'Hey, do you agree to this?"


"The problem is, you've already been warned. You were told they collected the data when you bought the car," Johnson added.

News4Jax reached out to the major automakers. Many of them redirected us to their company privacy statements on their websites.

We looked and found similar phrasing like, "We collect certain information about you and your vehicle."

So, now that we know cars collect data, you should know where it can go.

"Whoever is getting the data, in almost every case, they are selling that data, or they are at least providing access to the data," Johnson explained.

Today's cars pack the power of 20 personal computers and can process up to 25 gigabytes every hour. 
And that information is worth some serious money. The consulting firm McKinsey & Company estimates that data trove could be worth as much as $750 billion by 2030. But can this data be used against a driver?

"I'm going 40 miles per hour right now and I stop hard. Can that be sold to an insurance company?" we asked Johnson.

"Of course it can be," he answered.

Right now, neither Congress nor the Department of Transportation has implemented legal requirements for most car data. While many car companies say they are being proactive about consumer privacy, advocates like Bill Hanvey are concerned with the industry policing itself.

"So, is there someone sitting in a back room taking my data and selling it to my insurance company?" we asked.

"I think it's more than a back room, I think many carmakers have entire divisions, that are dedicated to the data," he answered.

Hanvey told News4Jax that he believes insurance companies are basing rates off purchased data.  

We then reached out to major insurance companies like Allstate, Progressive and State Farm. 
Progressive was the only company to respond, saying:

"Snapshot, our usage-based insurance program, is the only way data is collected directly from a car. Most Snapshot customers earn a discount based on their safe driving, however, someone's rate may increase if they display high-risk driving behavior."

And while none of the other companies responded to our emails, they all say they collect information from outside sources.  

"Let's say you slammed on your brakes, and then a week from now you were in an accident and it went to court," said Johnson. "The insurance agency that is defending the other side, whatever, they can actually get the collection data to be turned over, so they could say, you know, for the two weeks before the accident you were speeding, you were stopping suddenly. You seem to shift erratically, so how do we know you're not at fault this time?"

In July, New4Jax looked at several factors that go into car insurance rates and found premiums can vary greatly depending on the ZIP code where you live. Explore auto insurance rates in your neighborhood .

"My biggest fear is that my insurance company is going to buy my data and say you're a bad driver. So how do you handle that?" we asked Johnson. 

"Contact your insurance company and ask if they buy that data, and if they say yes, switch insurance companies. If they say no, get it from them in writing," Johnson answered.

Johnson did point out, however, when it comes to the volume of data collected by your car, he said it is much less than what is collected by your phone or on social media. 

If you're concerned about your data, inside the privacy policy page on every automaker and insurance website, the companies list telephone numbers and/or physical addresses where you can request the information that is being collected on you.

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