May 22, 2012 1 min read

Telematics – pt1 – data

This is the first of three short posts touching on a particular ethical dimension to how the insurance market’s use of telematics evolves.

A perennial question that crops up in discussions about telematics and motor insurance is about who owns the data that will be collected. Is it the individual policyholder? Or the insurer, or even the telematics provider? So far, no clear answer has emerged, largely I suspect because no clear answer has emerged in prior debates like this in other sectors.

The question of who owns the data is important when considering ethical issues around privacy. After all, you can only keep data private when there is an identifiable interest in it and one that wants it to be kept private. So is there a risk that so long as the question of who owns the data remains unresolved, questions of privacy will remain unresolved too?

If that’s the case, then rather than wait for the ‘who owns the data’ question to be resolved, perhaps those involved with introducing and scaling up the use of telematics in insurance should instead develop a set of principles that encapsulate the key issues about how such data will be used.

Such principles would need to encompass the rights and responsibilities of both policyholders and insurers, as well as others in the supply chain such as mobile companies and telematics providers. These principles would have to reflect insurers’ obligations under FSA regulations to ‘treat the customer fairly’ and under the Data Protection Act as well.

There is a danger that insurers and their telematics partners will try to derive such principles for themselves and present them to the public to adopt as given, using a vaguely worded insurance declaration to acquire consent. That would be great pity. There’s a lot to be gained by both policyholder and insurer from telematics and there’s no point putting that long term success at risk through a rather rash grab for control by one of those involved. Consumer groups should be involved from the outset.

In the next post, I’ll touch on an important ethical upside to insurers’ use of telematics.

Duncan Minty
Duncan Minty
Duncan has been researching and writing about ethics in insurance for over 20 years. As a Chartered Insurance Practitioner, he combines market knowledge with a strong and independent radar on ethics.
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