Would you let your insurance company spy on your driving or of others?

Update: see previous posts – September 14, 2011 In-Car Video Cams – Toronto Police, August 30, 2011 Facial Recognition/Biometric Technology – Borders, Airports, Waterways, July 14, 2011 Apple’s First Case of iPhone Data Tracking – Settles, April 11, 2010 Automatic Licence Plate Recognition Technology (ALPR) Deployed on Toronto Highways, December 3, 2009 OPP begin using ALPR, March 18, 2009 Automatic Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) in British Columbia, March 15, 2009 Lights, Cameras, Roll’em (April 2009 – Toronto)

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GM recently announced a trial run of Family Link, a pilot program OnStar customers can subscribe to in order to “stay connected to their loved ones when driving an OnStar-equipped vehicle.”

General Motors photo

GM recently announced a trial run of Family Link, a pilot program OnStar customers can subscribe to in order to “stay connected to their loved ones when driving an OnStar-equipped vehicle.”

You might think as the mother of two teenage boys I would love all the new nanny systems becoming available from many manufacturers.

You might think I’d be rigorously on board with technology that allows me to remotely monitor my sons’ actions while they’re driving my car, and to even limit what they can and can’t do while driving without me along for the ride.

You might think that. And you’d be wrong.

For the sake of argument, I’m not going to single out any specific system. All manufacturers are introducing similar options; some are calling them precisely what they are, others aren’t. The fact we’re not driving cars anymore — we’re essentially driving computers — makes this type of technology not only easy, but predictable. Surveillance used to be for spies. Now it’s for everyone.

Insurance companies are rolling out pilot programs that allow people to trade their privacy for lower rates. A company can monitor your every driving move, and reward you for being obedient.

Consider this: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Ben Franklin said that in 1755. He obviously wasn’t talking about strapping a GPS to a horse’s butt to see how his kids were riding. But while I’m on board with safety advances that are saving more and more lives each year (if not creating better drivers, which is another column), I see a clear and distinct difference between an airbag and a dashcam.

If you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t be concerned. How many times have you heard that? Are you okay with that argument? I’m not. It’s a slippery slope that ends in a pile of lost freedoms that I thought we cherished, and asked generations to fight for. I’m not okay with it in theory, and I’m not okay with it in practice.

I want the protection of reinforced passenger cabins and life-saving crumple zones; I do not want to hop on my computer and download every inch of the journey my child just made. “But you don’t actually know how your child is driving unless you’re not in the car,” I’ve been told. Well, my anecdotal experience has taught me that most teens drive one of two ways: too fast and too slow. And once they’ve mastered too slow, they all go too fast. It may not be over-the-top highway speeds, but it’s usually jackrabbit starts and late braking stops. They’re not especially smooth.

By the time most kids are driving independently of you, they’re 18, or close to it. If you don’t trust your 18-year-old to drive within the rules laid out by the Highway Traffic Act, then you shouldn’t loan out your car. It’s your car. You loan your car the same way you loan your daughter your diamond earrings. Or not. You might let your son take your expensive camera on that trip. Or not.

This is not a technological issue. This is a trust issue. My sons know that if they get any traffic infractions, they’re off my insurance. I have not preserved a perfect, boring record in order for some brat to blow it apart, and especially not in a car I handed over to him.

There are driving-based occupations that have been using these systems for years, and that makes sense to me. But my kids are not my employees, and to treat them as if their word, the law and my expectations are not enough is wrong. If I sense they are dangerous behind the wheel, I just won’t give them a wheel to get behind.

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