ACLU Opposes Insurance Benefit because Companies "Make Money"


ACRU Staff


August 6, 2008

Five American states now have programs that offer “pay-as-you-drive” insurance policies. These offer rate discounts up to 60% for drivers who agree to have “black boxes” installed to record miles driven and driving habits. An ACLU state executive director is opposing this innovation because it puts data in the hands of private companies that are in business “to make money,” revealing the ACLU bias against the heart of the American free market economy.

The facts for this article, but not the legal conclusions, come from an article in the Morris County, New Jersey, Daily Record on 29 July, 2008. The article concerns a technology-driven change in auto insurance based on driving habits.

Insurance companies are offering lower rates for customers who agree to have devices installed in their cars to keep track of their actual driving – distance driven, speed, and hitting the brakes. The first company to suggest the arrangement is offering a 10% discount to drivers who sign up, Then, when the policies renew, rates would go down as much as 60% or up as much as 9%, depending on the driving results recorded on the devices.

New Jersey has the highest statewide auto insurance rates in the nation, so the offer may be well received when it starts there on 8 August. The program is already being offered in Alabama, Oregon, Michigan and Minnesota by Progressive Insurance, and elsewhere by other companies. A similar program is offered nationwide in Great Britain.

The policies are usually called “Pay-as-you-drive,” since the customers’ rates are based on their actual driving habits. You may wonder what the ACLU has to do with this practical application of technology to auto insurance rates. The connection is through Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU of Minnesota.

He opposed the institution of the new technology in Minnesota, and was also quoted by the New Jersey newspaper in opposition to the technology. He referred to this as “a creeping abduction of the people’s data.” This was despite the fact that the insurance companies put it in writing that the data belongs to the policy holders, not the company, and is used only to set rates and no other purpose.

Mr. Samuelson, for the ACLU, makes a very telling statement in response to the insurance companies’ safeguards concerning the data. He says that the danger is “that the insurance companies are in the business to make money.” Think about that. The whole basis of the American economy is businesses that seek to provide goods and services that people want, at prices people are willing to pay. But none of those businesses will survive to do that unless they made a profit more often than not.

This remark by Charles Samuelson for the Minnesota ACLU reveals a political attitude that lies just below the surface of many ACLU’s legal positions which have economic aspects.

The ACLU is not fundamentally concerned with the law. It is not fundamentally concerned with constitutional rights. It is concerned with bringing more and more of the private economy under the thumb of the government, regardless that the results of that may be disastrous to the American economy. This is one of those instances where a spokesman for the ACLU revealed much more than he intended. (The second part of Mr. Samuelson’s comments was quoted in Minnesota papers, but not in the New Jersey one.)

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