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Time to clarify what Geico, State Farm, and OnStar are selling you

No to in-car monitoring

Progressive claims this tool is used for discounts only

“You’ll save with our snapshot discount,” “State Farm has identified you as driving a vehicle with OnStar built into it. We are offering you a discount for having this service.” and there are many other examples of this.

Let us get to the heart of what this is.

For those of you who like to drive all over town but tell your insurance carrier that you drive to work and back only, these devices will root your out and you will receive a hefty price increase instead of the promised price decrease.

Someone would have to be nuts to allow any insurance company to monitor your activity, your driving habits, or let OnStar share your driving information with anyone. Why?

Simple…if you have ever heard of the term “red lining,” which is taking the crime statistics from any community and drawing a red mark on a map and anyone living or working in those areas get to pay higher car insurance rates because you are more at risk than someone who lives and works in a more affluent part of town.

That means that, in terms of odds, you are more likely to have something happen to your insured vehicle. It also means that the insurance company is more likely to see a claim from you.

So enter this world of “snapshot”,”OnStar”, and the various other devices insurers are trying to dangle in front of you attached to a word, “discount”, in order to get you to bite.

And enough people are biting on this lure and companies like Geico, Progressive, State Farm, All-State, and many others are trying to do anything to get you to let them spy on you more than they already are.

But the information that those devices record about your driving habits are tied into your computer. So if you change cd’s or the radio station while driving, if you change lanes without signaling due to a driver or animal moving into your path, or even something as innocuous as braking too severely will count against you and your discount will eventually morph into a significant rate increase.

From the Snapshot provider’s website about the device:

“Data We Collect:
The Snapshot device records vehicle speed and time of day, and when the device is connected and disconnected from the vehicle. It also records the Vehicle Identification Number upon installation. Other information, such as miles driven and rates of acceleration and braking, is derived from the speed and time information recorded by the device.”

Think about this…insurers tie your credit record into your auto insure rate. They tie in things like non-fault accidents into your rate. That’s not to mention the number of times you’ve been uninsured or placed into a high risk pool.

In short…don’t do it. Keep insurers out of your car unless of course, you are the perfect driver and you never drive anywhere except to home and work or home and school.

And for the record…this is, in my opinion, a polite way of asking “can we please put spyware on to your car’s computer to monitor you?”

You should really pay attention to privacy policies

privacy lock icon

Privacy and data collection

Google has been getting slammed lately in the tech media space for it’s blog post ( http://j.mp/z5Z5EO ) declaring that they are unifying all of their privacy policies into one massive policy. What has happened is that Google is being accused of violating it’s initial rule–“Don’t be evil.”

Evil is actually in the eye of the beholder as Google is not saying they are selling our personal data. They are merely sharing it across their own platforms to serve their own needs. As long as Google keeps this data internally and does not share it with third parties, I have no problem with that.

What I would like however, is to have control over the data that Google has gathered about me and the ability to change or delete it when Google does turn evil, which all for profit companies must do if they are to survive.

There are hundreds of companies who make billions of dollars off of each our personal profiles. Our criminal records, our driving records, and even how much money we gave to our local dog-catcher’s re-election campaign are all part of data sets that large companies like ChoicePoint, and Insurance Services Office sell to their customers. Even your prescription records are acrued and compiled to be resold by Milliman and Ingenix.

I would venture a guess that those who fear our federal government’s intrusion into our private lives have never searched deeply into who they should really be worried about. Private companies exist for one purpose…to make rich people richer. Government exists for one reason–to do for people what they cannot do for themselves.

Fearing government regulations is one thing that many Americans do but it’s misguided. Regulations on private business are necessary to keep our food and our money safe.

What is arbitration and why you should care about

 

Scotus would allow the makers of this device the safe harbor of arbitration

SCOTUS would protect the makers of this fraudulent medical device

 

Everyday thousands of Americans enter into new contracts with credit card issuers, mortgage companies, new home builders, and many many other large corporations.

I would venture a guess that 95% of most of these consumers think that is something goes haywire, like your new home develops cracks in the foundation or the lender modifies your contract 60 days after you’ve signed it, that you can seek some remedy in a court of law.

You can kiss having your day in court goodbye. Today 95% of all contracts between businesses and consumers have some sort of binding arbitration clause in their agreements. And on January 9th, 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision said that binding arbitration clauses in contracts are just that…binding and cannot be overturned.

The reason why so many companies are forcing mandatory binding arbitration clauses on their customers is that in many cases the terms for arbitration are buried deep within the paperwork your banker, broker, or realtor has you skip over just to get your signature.

In addition, the company gets to pick the arbitrator, the state of the arbitration, and the terms that you can seek arbitration under. So a Texas resident with a beef against a California credit card company would have to take the time, and money, out of their lives to go to California for the arbitration hearing.

And even then the deck is still further stacked against the consumer.

According to statistics compiled by the University of Colorado and Smart Money magazine, consumers have won approximately 4% of the arbitration cases heard. In 2009, the Minnesota State Attorney General sued a major arbitration firm because of alleged close ties to the banks the firm heard cases from. The major banks also named in this suit temporarily dropped their arbitration clause but you can expect that it will be back and enforced as soon as the type can be set on each company’s word processors.

It’s this simple…pay attention to what you are signing and where you buy high dollar items from. In some cases, you should shop around and even if it costs a few dollars more, you should get your loans, credit cards, and other financial instruments from those companies who do not have these clauses in their agreements but if people do not pay attention and keep buying and lending from whomever is cheapest or easiest, then you can expect to see 99.5% of all American based companies using arbitration clauses in their paperwork.