Would you sell your driving privacy for a potential discount?

I attended a presentation by Kevin Mitnick several years ago where he claimed that he could get a person’s account password by offering them a pen, by the end of the presentation he was able to get several. In reality people do give up their information for a benefit, Google gives you free search results, Facebook keeps you connected with friends for free, Nielsen pays you to know your TV habits and even the government with their NSA programs provides security (although this has been controversial to say the least).

I first heard about Progressive from my marketing professor, who raved about them. He really loved this company due to their offerings and their great marketing. He also talked about their Snapshot program where Progressive sends a customer a device that tracks their driving habits and provides a discount to do so. At the time, I was very happy with my car insurance but started noticing the advertisement around this program. I found it very intriguing and was curious about it. Last August when I bought a new car my insurance company dropped the ball and I decided to give Progressive a try.

Progressive offered me a six month trial at $467 (one full payment) which no other insurance company could match, so I felt very good, I was getting a bargain! Before signing up I talked to a customer rep and asked what would be my next bill. They would not be able to tell because it all depended on the discount rate (up to 30%) I would get from the device. I had to wait 6 months to know.

They hastily sent me the Snapshot device and I installed it right away, I was eager to get my discount. However something immediately happened to me: I was very hyperaware of how I was driving. There was always a sensation of being looked at and being judged. It stressed me out. The worst thing was that every time I stopped too suddenly, the device would peep. I dreaded that peep. The peep is designed by Progressive to be a mechanism of letting you know that you did something bad. I don’t know about others, but I think I am an OK driver and that damn thing would do on average one peep per day, mostly in the city where people cross unexpectedly.

A couple of days ago I got the answer on my discount: “You didn’t earn a discount based on your driving habits”. This was devastating. I had suffered so much for six months and didn’t get a discount! This broke my heart and made me think a lot. I had just given Progressive all my driving data for six months, what could they do with that data? For sure my insurance would go up (a day later I got the new bill: $516) but could they use this data against me? Could they sell it to other insurance companies? Most likely not, but I did feel betrayed. I had given them access to my life and was told I was not good enough. It was like a girlfriend breaking up with you because you are just not right and you are just given hints on why it happened. Was it too many beeps? Was I too fast? The basic reports mentioned the fast breaks but not a full answer on what the problem was.

In retrospective, if it was only a financial decision the potential discount would be worth my privacy, but in reality the feeling of being tracked, measured and judged were definitely not worth it. This program differentiates from the rest of the other programs with one thing, you are judged. Imagine if Google told you your search was too stupid so they wouldn’t search for it or if Facebook said your posts were too boring so they wouldn’t post them; you wouldn’t feel too happy with them, would you? Overall I was left with a sour taste in my mouth (mostly because I was rejected) and definitely will be thinking twice about doing a similar thing in the future.

So dear reader, how much is your privacy worth?

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