Biting the hand that feeds you

In a high tech version of biting the hand that feeds you, an investigation by New York Times technology reporter Kashmir Hill, uncovered that General Motors is secretly tracking the driving habits of their customers and sharing that data to insurance companies, leading in some cases to higher insurance rates. GM sells the data to LexisNexis Risk Solutions and Verisk, who in turn sell it to the insurance companies. She cites numerous examples where this leads to increased premiums, but found no reductions.

After writing the original story she discovered she and her husband were victims as well, never having given permission when they purchased their 2023 Chevy Bolt. Essentially, GM has been spying on its customers without permission and selling the data that often resulted in financial harm to their own customers.

Most of the apps that come with new cars have a feature that lets you see a trip summary of your daily trips, showing you miles, time, and how many hard stops and accelerations occurred. I found that on the apps for my Toyota and Lexus. While some of this information can be helpful, be sure you opt out sharing the data with your car company. It’s not alway clear how to do this, and It’s often difficult to seperate out the data you do want to share, such as oil level, air pressure, etc. that allows you to receive safety alerts.

The author requested the data and her husband’s LexisNexis report had a breakdown of the 203 trips the two had taken in the car since January, including the distance, the start and end times, and how often they hard-braked or accelerated rapidly. She notes that the “Verisk report, which dated back to mid-December and recounted 297 trips, had a high-level summary at the top: 1,890.89 miles driven; 4,251 driving minutes; 170 hard-brake events; 24 rapid accelerations, and, on a positive note, zero speeding events.”

Her own report from LexisNexis file didn’t have her driving data on it, because the G.M. dealership listed her husband as the primary owner.

G.M.’s spokeswoman had told her that the data collection happened only to people who turned on OnStar, its connected services plan, and enrolled in Smart Driver, a gamified program that offers feedback and digital badges for good driving, either at the time of purchase or via their vehicle’s mobile app.

But Hill notes, “That wasn’t us — and I had checked to be sure. In mid-January, again while reporting, I had connected our car to the MyChevrolet app to see if we were enrolled in Smart Driver. The app said we weren’t, and thus we had no access to any information about how we drove.”

You really have to question the morality and ethics of G.M.’s management, from their CEO, Mary Barra on down, spying on their customers and sharing the data that can result in added costs, all for perhaps a few tens of millions of dollars in extra revenue. Companies used to work hard to build loyalty and trust with their customers to gain repeat sales and recommendations, and this is just the opposite, and is a very stupid move for a company to do. But it may explain G.M.’s initiative to replace Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with their own apps, a move Barra announced last year as a way of increasing revenue. It neatly fits with this disclosure: require the use of more of their own apps to collect more of their customer’s information and more sales of our personal data.

Regardless of your make of car, you can determine what data these companies are holding of yours by requesting your LexisNexis report here: https://consumer.risk.lexisnexis.com/consumer and your Verisk report here: https://fcra.verisk.com/#/

by Phil Baker

3 thoughts on “Biting the hand that feeds you

  1. Zena Zumeta says:

    Verisk now says as of March 18,2024 it no longer receives information from GM on driver behavior and no longer passes information on to insurers. Wonderful news!!

    • Phil Baker says:

      Thanks Mark for sharing this. I am waiting to hear back from my request I made a week ago and will post it when I hear back.

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