GM cuts ties with some third-party data brokers after NYT report

2024 Cadillac XT6 09

Two weeks ago, the New York Times reported on automakers sharing privately-owned vehicle driving data with third-party data firms. The short story is that today’s connected cars send heaps of information back to their respective automakers, which automakers can use to improve services and then profit by those services, or just to profit. In the former category, Ford used telematics data from more than 2.5 million trips that E-Transits made to help develop the updated 2024 E-Transit. In the latter category, per the NYT report, GM, Kia, Mitsubishi, and Subaru transfer their customers’ driving data with the LexisNexis Telematics Exchange, a “portal for sharing consumer-approved connected car data with insurers,” while the aforementioned Ford, as well as Honda and Hyundai, sell their data to Verisk to be put to similar use (automakers can sell to both third-party companies or more, the NYT didn’t lay out all of the relationships). The problem with the “consumer-approved” bit, according to the NYT, is that many if not most consumers have no idea they’re approving such use because explanations are buried in an End User License Agreement that no one reads, or else the chain-of-use and the potential effects aren’t made clear.

The NYT now reports GM has cut ties with LexisNexis, a spokesperson writing in an e-mailed statement to the paper, “Customer trust is a priority for us, and we are actively evaluating our privacy processes and policies.”

This could partly be due to a Florida resident breaking the seal on lawsuits. Romeo Chicco found out about the data sharing when seven auto insurers rejected him for policies on his 2021 Cadillac XT6. When he finally found an insurer to agree, his rate had doubled. After being told to check his LexisNexis report, he discovered records on nearly 260 trips over a period of six months, each trip identifying events like hard braking and hard acceleration that insurers were using to deem Chicco less safe than he’s previously been given credit for. Meanwhile, in New York, a Chevrolet Bolt driver had his insurance rates rise 21% because of a 130-page LexisNexis dossier with data on 640 trips that his Bolt had uploaded to GM servers.

Again, remember, GM isn’t alone in this. Depending on what happens with Chicco’s suit, it’s possible that the fact-finding phase will dig up a heap of aggrieved owners of vehicles from the six other automakers above, and more. We’re interested to see how this suit goes, though, especially if it makes it to Washington. The state has strong privacy laws, but last year, after some Ford owners sued the automaker over storing and holding onto cellphone data, an appeals court dismissed the case. The panel of judges wrote that the Washington Privacy Act requires “an injury to ‘his or her business, his or her person, or his or her reputation'” in order to mandate some sort of redress. Would classification as a less-safe driver or do higher insurance rates count as injury?  

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