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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 who General Motors is tracking the driving habits of their customers and selling the data to LexisNexis Risk Solutions and Verisk, who in turn sell it to insurance companies to determine if a customer’s insurance rates warranted an increase. She cited numerous examples of increased premiums, but found no reductions.

She notes that drivers of GM cars were not informed of their being tracked. 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. Basically GM has been spying on its customers without permission and selling the data that often resulted in monetary 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. While some of this information can be helpful, be sure you opt out sharing the data with your car company. They don’t make it easy to do, 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 reports that 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. management, from their CEO, Mary Barra on down, spying on their customers and sharing the data that can result in added costs to their customers, all for perhaps a few tens of million dollars in extra revenue. Companies used to work hard to build loyalty and trust with their customers to gain repeat sales. This just seems like such a stupid move for a company to do. But it may explain their 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: more of their own apps will allow more tracking, more information collection and more sales of our personal data.

You can easily determine what data these companies are holding of yours by requesting your LexisNexis report here: and your Verisk report here: