In modern society, we have become totally reliant on the internet for commerce, news, entertainment, and even interpersonal communications. Most people are generally aware that they leave “digital footprints” in one form or another every time they go online. But occasionally, your smartphone/internet activities may be used against your interests without you even being aware. 

How Insurance Companies Track Your Data iphone tracking

In a recent article in the New York Post, tech investigators revealed that certain apps downloaded to phones across the country were quietly collecting highly detailed motion data, which was then used to “score” drivers. This practice could lead to higher insurance rates. Life360 (locates your family members), GasBuddy (finds low-priced gas stations), and MyRadar (provides real-time weather tracking) are all smartphone apps that, in the background, also collect and transmit vehicle motion data back to the software publisher. And each publisher has a tie-in with a data collection company called Arity. Arity, unknown to most users, is owned by Allstate Insurance. By inadvertently opting into data sharing, a driver’s motion data, including miles traveled, acceleration, hard braking, collision, etc., can be shared (i.e., sold) by Arity to Allstate and other auto insurers, who review such driving behavior to determine insurability and set insurance rates. Even a user who took the time to review the numerous pages of vague legalese in the app’s Terms and Conditions would likely have no real idea that their driving behavior was being tracked and sold across the insurance industry.  

Phone Applications and Tracking 

At Sussman & Simcox, we are all about safe driving, and we work to hold responsible those who drive negligently and cause injury to others. But we have also seen years of abusive tactics by the insurance industry, tactics they routinely cloak as “fighting fraudulent claims” or “keeping premiums low,” but which usually just mean massively higher profits for their shareholders at the expense of policyholders. We do not doubt that Allstate would argue the collected driving data might “save money for cautious drivers.” But drivers who have had their premiums go down year over year seem the rare exception, whether they drive safely or not. So, take a look at some of your phone apps. Suppose you see a reference to “Arity” in the user agreement. In that case, Allstate may be monitoring your driver data without your knowledge, sharing it with other insurers, and making decisions about your insurability as a customer.  

On the same topic of having your activities tracked, at the very first client meeting at Sussman & Simcox, we remind new clients that anything they post on social media during the life of a case can later be discovered by an insurance representative/attorney before or during litigation. Privacy settings on a FaceBook or other social media accounts do not matter. During litigation, the defense could ask the court to order a victim to either provide a download of all posts or surrender login information to the defense so they can examine all such of posts. 

How Social Media Can Affect Your Claim 

Why would the defense want to snoop on someone’s social media? To see what the victim was up to after a collision. The defense is hoping to find information that will support an argument that the victim was “not as injured” as they are claiming. So if a victim tells their physician that their neck and back remain sore two months after a traffic collision, but that weekend they are posting photos to Facebook showing them dancing and enjoying life at a wedding reception, the defense will invariably argue the victim is an exaggerator. 

The problem is that even innocent posts can get misinterpreted. In a recent case, a client at Sussman & Simcox sat for a deposition regarding a June traffic accident that caused serious shoulder problems for the client. After the client testified under oath that he could not play golf for many months after the collision, he was confronted by the insurance defense attorney with a Facebook post from just a month after the collision.  There he was, on a golf course, smiling. The client was adamant that he did not play golf that summer at all, and he left the deposition confused and upset. Later research revealed that while the Facebook post went up the month after the collision, the photo itself was from the prior year, i.e. long before the collision. The client even noticed that he was wearing long sleeves in the photo, which he would never do during the hot summer months. The defense attorney was eventually persuaded that the client had not been golfing that summer. 

Rather than have to research and explain such posts, we remind clients that the insurance industry is watching you. If you post about your activities online, it is fair game for your opponent to monitor and use such posts to their advantage, not yours. So to anyone who is active on social media, the best advice is to limit posts after an accident severely or to limit posts to neutral topics, such as the weather, sports, etc., and not about yourself.

Howard Simcox
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Gaithersburg Personal Injury Attorney
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