Most Americans don't deserve America. A nation founded on basic principles of freedom and civil liberties is a nation where its people should have a healthy skepticism about the reach and power of government. Instead, Americans have diluted and diminished and given away their liberty and privacy out of fear and indifference.
The latest assault on privacy comes from auto insurer Progressive Corporation. The company is offering up to a 30% discount on auto insurance if a customer will allow them to attach a small device to the car's on board diagnostic computer. The device would measure when customers use their vehicle, how far they drive and how hard they brake. Progressive would use the information to determine which drivers are less likely to get in an accident. So far at least 25% of customers who are eligible have signed up to participate. Allstate, State Farm and other insurers are rushing to follow with similar offers.
I know some claim we have no privacy left anymore so why worry. The Wall Street Journal has run a series of articles chronicling all the ways advertisers are spying on you every time you go online. They are now able to "fingerprint" your computer and track where you go, what you see and search, and what you buy whether you want them to or not. The "cookie" is now so yesterday. Cars are sold with On Star and other services connecting you to some central control. Your cell phone can be tracked even when it's off and even the Fast Pass you use on Bay Area bridges tracks your movements and the information is available to be subpoenaed.
There are companies like Foursquare which reward you for "checking in" to a store or restaurant and letting others know you are there. Add Facebook and Twitter, and maybe it would appear those under the age of thirty find privacy to be an outmoded concept. Now, to save a few bucks, you can allow insurance companies to monitor how you drive. Really? Insurance companies?
It doesn't take any kind of psychic abilities to see the potential abuse of this latest "advance". At first it will be voluntary. Eventually, it will be mandated to get auto insurance. The devices will get more sophisticated and measure speed, driving habits etc and all of this information will be stored and available to the government and to any lawyer with a subpoena. If this had existed after September 11th, can you imagine what Bush and company would have done? They would have demanded every piece of information about every driver under scrutiny or maybe just every driver in the country. We know corporate America will cooperate and they don't even require a warrant.
I have to admit I'm baffled by the cavalier attitude Americans seem to have when it comes to their privacy and the right to move freely, talk freely, shop freely, email freely, and search freely without anyone knowing what they are doing. The old saw,"...if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to fear," is such an anachronism when the people who write the laws, and prosecute and determine guilt, are the same ones watching what you do. Even if it's not the government, the idea corporate America is building profiles on each online user in order to sell products, without any permission, smacks of a big brother Orwell couldn't have fathomed.
The same people who populate Tea Party rallies and scream about intrusive Obama care, are the same ones who championed the Patriot Act and defended warrantless searches, secret national security letters and illegal data mining of private communications and now they are handing over their personal habits and data to an insurance company to make a couple of bucks. Who says irony is dead.
Perhaps this is a fight we have already lost. Will there be a car sold in this country which won't connect to the Internet? In a Super Bowl ad, Chevy bragged about the "cruise" which connects real time to Facebook. Smartphones have apps where the phone can spy on you and apps which allow you to use it to spy on others. However, to save a few bucks I will not be handing any driving information to any insurance company so they can have me in their central file and I will continue to raise alarms about the continued assault on our privacy. The right to freedom of movement and association and personal shopping and other habits...now that's progressive. What do you think?