Your Driving, Tracked – The New York Times

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I’m a technology reporter who focuses on privacy.

You know you have a credit score. Did you know that you might also have a driving score?

Driving scores are based on how often you slam on the brakes, speed, look at your phone or drive late at night — information that, likely without your knowing, can be collected by your car or by apps on your smartphone. That data is sold to brokers, who work with auto insurers.

These scores can help determine how much drivers pay for insurance. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: Experts say that basing premiums on how we actually drive — rather than on our credit scores and whether we’re married or went to college — could be a fairer system, and ultimately improve road safety.

But this tracking will only lead to safer driving if people know that it is happening.

The smartphone apps collecting driver data might not be obvious at first glance. One, Life360, is popular with parents who want to keep track of their families. MyRadar offers weather forecasts. GasBuddy can help you find cheap fuel on a road trip.

But all of these apps also have opt-in driving analysis features that offer insights into things like safety and fuel usage. Those insights are provided by Arity, a data broker founded by Allstate.

Arity uses the data to create driving scores for tens of millions of people, and then markets the scores to auto insurance companies.

“No one who realizes what they’re doing would consent,” said Kathleen Lomax, a New Jersey mother who recently canceled her subscription to Life360 when she found out this was happening.

Arity says that insurers ultimately need consent to link a person’s driving data to their auto insurance rate. But in some cases, the request for smartphone data may appear as boilerplate contract language — “third party data and reports” — that online shoppers regularly click past without reading.

Chi Chi Wu, a consumer rights lawyer, raised an important concern regarding data collected this way: How do insurers know when a person is driving a car, versus riding in it? (Arity said it “uses advanced technology” to determine this.)

Insurers are also getting driving data directly from people’s cars. I’ve previously written about how General Motors sold data on millions of drivers to LexisNexis, a practice it ceased after our story.

But any car with an internet connection, which most modern cars have, can send data back to the automaker.

Rob Leathern, a tech executive in Texas, was surprised last year when he got an email from Toyota saying he could get “big savings” from Progressive because he’d been identified as a safe driver, based on information collected from his 2023 Sequoia.

He didn’t realize his driving was being monitored and wanted to get to the bottom of it. It took a month of emails, phone calls and data privacy requests to find out that a data broker affiliated with Toyota called Connected Analytic Services had a Microsoft Excel file with second-by-second records listing every time he had driven faster than 85 m.p.h., slammed on his brakes or accelerated rapidly.

For a previous story on automakers sharing people’s data, a law professor told me that people who sign up to be monitored by their insurers, in what are commonly called usage-based insurance plans, drive better as a consequence. If drivers knew they would pay more for risky driving, we could get safer roads as a result.

Those roads have gotten more dangerous in the U.S., as a recent Times Magazine story detailed. There are more fatalities, and people are driving faster. At the same time, the police are giving out fewer tickets.

That decline in ticketing has been a problem for insurers, because traffic citations are a metric for how risky a driver someone is. It’s part of why insurers want access to real-world driving behavior, one industry expert told me.

And drivers — at least the good ones, which most of us think we are — might actually want that, too. Because the way auto insurance is priced right now can be quite unfair, said Michael DeLong of the Consumer Federation of America.

If you have a bad credit score, for example, you will pay more for auto insurance even if you have never been in an accident or received a ticket. For that reason, DeLong is in favor of insurers looking at driving behavior instead. But he has concerns: Consumers need to know it’s happening, he said, and we need to be wary of possible new forms of discrimination.

Driving late at night can hurt a person’s score because of the poorer visibility and greater percentage of tired and inebriated drivers on the road. But that could in turn penalize low-income people who work a night shift, such as janitors.

So how do you know if this is happening to you? Check the privacy settings on your car’s dashboard system and smartphone apps. If an app connects to your car, or gives you feedback about your driving, that’s a good place to start. But don’t worry about Google Maps or Waze. Google, which owns both apps, said it doesn’t provide driving data that’s linked to individuals to third parties.

  • Shelters along the U.S.-Mexico border were quieter — and their residents more anxious — in the days after a Biden executive order effectively closed the border for most migrants.

  • North Dakota’s governor, Doug Burgum, has little national profile. Yet, he has emerged as a contender in Donald Trump’s search for a running mate.

  • Biden, in an effort to charm audiences, exaggerates details when recounting episodes from his life. The Times fact-checked of some of his most repeated tales.

  • Stanford reinstated a standardized test score requirement for undergraduate admissions. Several other elite colleges have also restored the practice after abandoning it during the pandemic.

  • Michael Mosley, a British medical journalist, was found dead in Greece. Mosley was widely known for popularizing the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet.

Is congestion pricing dead in New York?

Yes. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s indefinite postponement of congestion pricing included few details about a plan for reinstating it. “She took a quick exit to avoid the political traffic ahead,” Newsday’s editorial board writes.

No. The postponement is mostly a product of timing. “If the political trouble passes in November and Democrats feel good about themselves again, they can just as easily put congestion pricing back in play,” Tom Wrobleski writes for SI Live.

Nicholas Kristof, the son of a refugee, says that Biden’s new asylum policy is the right one for the country.

Paramount’s financial struggles threaten cultural touchstones like MTV and “The Daily Show.” The problems can be traced to the whims of one Hollywood family, William Cohan writes.

The front row: Banter with the audience, known as crowd work, has become more common in stand-up comedy.

Forced to leave: See photos from CNN of life on an overcrowded island in Panama, threatened by rising sea levels.

Argentina: Buenos Aires Yoga School promised spiritual salvation. Prosecutors say it was a sex cult.

Vows: Many women joke about marrying their best friend. These two did it.

Lives Lived: Jürgen Moltmann drew on his experiences as a German soldier during World War II to construct transformative ideas about God and salvation, becoming a leading Protestant theologian. He died at 98.

This week’s subject for The Interview is actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus. We talked about her new, more serious film role, political correctness in comedy and what she’s learned hosting the podcast “Wiser Than Me.”

I recently heard an episode of “Wiser Than Me” in which you interviewed Patti Smith, and you talked about the different ways that you’ve processed the death of people in your own life. Have the conversations you’ve been having on your podcast helped you?

Yeah, it’s really one of the many impetuses to making this podcast, because all of these women I’m talking to have lived very full, long lives. And that of course means they’ve experienced loss. And I’m really interested to talk to them about how they move beyond it or with it or into it. I’m just loving those conversations.

I find what’s comforting about them, and sometimes a little depressing, is how many of the same themes — sexism, prejudice, self-doubt — they have experienced themselves. What is your takeaway from hearing these women having gone through so many of the things that we’re still going through?

There’s a sense with most of them, not everybody, but there’s a sense of, OK, I’m done with that [expletive]. I don’t know if we can swear.

You can swear.

But anyway, I’m done with that. I’m done with self-doubt. I’m done with shame. I’m done with feeling weird about being ambitious. You know, the list is long. We all know what it is. I think for me, the takeaway is: Oh, we can be done with that sooner than we thought. We don’t have to take 60, 70 [expletive] years to come to that conclusion.

Read more of the interview here.

Click the cover image above to read this week’s magazine.

The translation market: As English fluency has increased in Europe, readers have started to buy American and British books in the original language. Publishers are worried.

Nonfiction: In “Stories Are Weapons,” the journalist Annalee Newitz explores how America has used narrative to manipulate and deceive.

Our editors’ picks: “The Swans of Harlem,” a portrait of five Black ballerinas from the 1960s and ’70s, and six other books.

Times best sellers: “Life’s Too Short,” a memoir by Darius Rucker, the lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish, enters the hardcover nonfiction list this week.

Fall in love with South African jazz.

Wear a surfer-approved sun hat.

Give yourself a good ice cream scoop.

  • The T20 World Cup group match between India and Pakistan is today.

  • The French Open men’s tennis final is today.

  • The Peabody Awards are today.

  • The U.S. Open golf tournament begins on Thursday.

  • The G7 summit begins on Thursday.

  • Switzerland hosts a peace summit on Saturday. Ukraine aims to build support for its plan to end Russia’s invasion.

In this week’s Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter, Emily Weinstein features a linguine with zucchini, corn and shrimp, a recipe that was recently described by a Cooking editor as “a pasta that tastes like summer.” Emily also suggests making a tomato beef stir-fry and garlicky Alfredo beans.

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