Toyota and Amazon Partnership Wants To Cash in on Your Driving Data

Big Brother Bezos is watching.

byJames Gilboy|
Toyota News photo

Private entities already know far more about people and their personal lives than they should. Social media stalks online browsing habits whenever it can, and smartphones log locations whenever possible. But even if you leave your phone at home, the watchful yes of Amazon may soon still be able to track your travels, and even impact your finances. That could happen thanks to a new alliance between Amazon and Toyota, which could use connected cars to monitor your driving behavior and potentially raise your car insurance premiums.

Earlier this week, the two corporations announced the collaborations of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Toyota's Mobility Service Platform (MSPF); an all-encompassing mobility scheme Toyota hopes will give it a foot in the door of all forms of car-based ground transport. Toyota outlines MSPF as applying to everything from the "full-service lease" subscription model to taxis—the legal grey-zone equivalent ridesharing—and potentially even the auto insurance business.

According to The Register, the collaborative insurance program would involve the exchange of driving telemetry from Data Communication Modules—basically modern Toyota and Lexus products' black boxes—for access to AWS's vast reserves of computational power, data storage, and consultation services. This would allow AWS to analyze an individual's driving habits, establishing how fast they drive, how regularly they activate safety assists such as antilock brakes or traction control, or even track minutiae like control input aggression and turn signal use. And as driver-facing cameras become more common with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), driver attentiveness could also be tracked by Big Brother Bezos.

Long story short, Toyotas of tomorrow could become snitches to your insurer—but only with your approval. In accordance with the Consumer Privacy Protection Principles, current DCM-equipped Toyotas don't scrape data for Toyota's current insurance discount program if drivers don't sign up for it. No opt-in, no tracking of how you drive. But while connected-car insurance schemes could slash premiums for responsible drivers, and inflate them for drivers deserving costlier premiums, is information on your whereabouts and driving habits something you really want stored in some Amazon server? Or, given how much data the NSA scrapes on American citizens, on the hard drives of the increasingly authoritarian governments?

Be it online or off, privacy has always been a concern for more than just kooks and criminals. Your personal information is valuable, and even if you think you have nothing to hide, there are plenty of companies out there that would just love to know everything you're up to.

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