heavy traffic on a city highway interchange

A new patent secured by Allstate could allow the company to spy on drivers

Newer vehicles are equipped with various sensors and cameras, and these are often associated with crash prevention technologies, like automatic braking or blind spot warning alerts. One insurance provider may soon be using these systems in another way, however, as Allstate has recently been issued a patent for technology that it could use to spy on its policyholders.

Entitled “traffic-based driving analysis,” this technology would rely on the existing infrastructure of modern vehicles to monitor various details about motorists, their behaviors behind the wheel, their passengers and their driving environment.

Specifically, just some of the data that this technology could monitor and record include:

  • The head and eye level of drivers
  • Drivers’ seat position
  • Drivers’ blood pressure and heart rate
  • The volume level of the radio/sound system
  • What drivers are doing behind the wheel – and, in particular, whether they are talking on cellphones, eating or engaging in other potentially distracting behaviors
  • The number and types of other occupants in a vehicle
  • Whether there is alcohol in the air within the vehicle’s cabin.

A spokesperson for Allstate has explained that a purpose of this technology is to “provide drivers with broader information about traffic conditions and external factors that could better equip them to drive safe.”

Privacy Concerns Raised by Critics

While the idea of having such detailed information about motorists being monitored and collected by an insurance provider may be unsettling to many, there could be bigger implications of this technology if Allstate ends up putting it to use.

Namely, critics have noted that this technology:

  • May not be simply limited to those who have auto insurance through Allstate – In fact, this technology, which monitors the occupants of vehicles, could collect data about unsuspecting passengers. So, if you are riding with someone covered by Allstate, data about you can be gathered and retained by the insurer. Similarly, this technology has the potential to capture data associated with other motorists and travelers on the road, including other drivers, pedestrians, etc.
  • Does not seem to have limits at this point – In other words, it’s unknown at this time the extent of the data that could be collected. For instance, some have raised concerns that the company could collect information regarding people’s bank accounts or cellphones. This raises additional worries that the data could then be sold by the insurer.

What do you think about Allstate’s patent? Do you think that this type of monitoring of motorists is intended to promote safety? Or do you think it’s more of an intrusion into people’s privacy? Share your thoughts on our Facebook & Google+ pages.

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