chicksdaddy writes "Pay-as-you-drive programs are all the rage in the auto insurance industry. The (voluntary) programs, like Progressive Insurance's Snapshot use onboard monitoring devices to track information like the speed of the automobile, sudden stops, distance traveled and so on. Safe and infrequent drivers might see their rates drop while customers who log thousands of miles behind the wheel and/or drive recklessly would see their insurance rates rise. GPS data isn't generally collected, and insurance companies promise customers that they're not tracking their movement. No matter. A study (PDF) by researchers at the University of Denver claims that the destination of a journey can be derived by combining knowledge of the trip's origin with the metrics collected by the 'pay-as-you-drive' device. The data points collected by these remote sensing devices are what the researchers call 'quasi-identifiers' – attributes that are 'non-identifying by themselves, but can be used to unique identify individuals when used in combination with other data.' In one example, researchers used a strategy they called 'stop-point matching,' to compare the pattern of vehicle stop points from a known origin with various route options. They found that in areas with irregular street layouts (i.e. 'not Manhattan'), the pattern will be more or less unique for any location. The study raises important data privacy questions for the (many) 'pay-as-you-drive' programs now being piloted, or offered to drivers – not to mention other programs that seek to match remote sensors and realtime monitoring with products and services."
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