This Wired article by Keith Barry is a bit chilling. It is about a mobile app by Philip Inghelbrecht, one of the co-founders of Shazam.
Anyone can write a ticket, even pedestrians and cyclists. No one is safe from being tattled on. Even if you don’t use the program, which went live Wednesday, you can’t opt out of being flagged if someone thinks you’re driving like a schmuck. Inghelbrecht is emphatic in saying he sees no privacy issues with the app and insists the end of road-going anonymity can only improve safety.
No privacy issues, huh? That is just for starters–what about due process? Officially installed red-light and speed cameras face enough challenges, I can’t imagine that this system is going to survive any kind of serious complaint in court.
The legal ramifications aren’t the whole story, however. It’s the commercial applications that are even more troublesome.
Insurance companies rely on buying your driving record from your state’s motor-vehicle bureau, and they use predictive proxy data such as marital status, homeownership and ZIP code to determine your risk. Inghelbrecht sees insurance companies having great interest in a driver-behavior database that, if predictive of claims data, could help set rates.
Thankfully, insurers are a little more cautious. Barry spoke with a representative from Nationwide who raises concners around consistent definitions. The horror of individuals bent of gaming this app thankfully is apparent enough to invite some caution. Inghelbrecht seems non-plussed, breezily mentioning algorithms and eventually user feedback to address “noise” in the system.
Even if this effort stalls, the idea is out there. My fear is that competitors will crop up in short order, magnifying the wasp nest of privacy and liability issues introduced.