October 02, 2015

Horse 1997 - Big Brother Is Tracking You (With GPS)

This morning I am/was making/made (in the future past present tense) a count of all the surveillance cameras that I've been watched over by. Including cameras at train stations, on trains and the bus, as well as cameras facing George Street in the city, I have been lovingly watched over by no less than 14 cameras. In theory these cameras are there for our security and safety but in reality, they have been placed there to identify perpetrators of crimes after the event so that people who suffer damages can sue.

The M30 bus in particular is GPS tracked which means that if you have an iDevice, you can follow the bus on an app; which I imagine is jolly good fun if you like playing with that sort of thing.
My tablet which also comes with some sort of GPS thingy, has this feature where it will display your position on Google Maps. Your position is marked on the map with a little triangle and you can even set it up to record where you've been by leaving a trail. This is incredibly amusing because the arrowhead reminds me of the opening of the BBC comedy Dad's Army and it makes me want to start humming "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler?"

All of this sounded fine and lovely until I saw this on the top of a pizza box:


Domino's now also has an app which allows you to follow your order from their shop directly to your door. Again, this sounds like a marvel of the age but I wonder what else is going on. Fast food companies aren't generally renowned for their excellent pay and conditions; so why would they suddenly care about the safety of their drivers. As always, the devil is in the detail and you have to ask what the monetary benefit is in tracking their drivers.

Speed Tracking and Driver Alerts look to me as though Domino's are looking for ways to get out of any possible insurance claims that may arise as a result of drivers doing their jobs. By tracking speed they can get out of having to pay any claims that might happen of they can prove that the driver was speeding. I'm not exactly sure how following sudden braking would invalidate an insurance claim but I'm sure that they'd have their lawyers working on it. If there was cause for sudden braking, that immediately allows a lawyer to cast doubt on the case and ask the question of why the delivery driver was braking.
By keeping tabs on 'Unplanned Stops' the local manager can also keep track of any slacking off that the driver might do. I'm sure that it must happen that a delivery driver would visit their friends either because they were making a delivery to them or because they happened to drop by along the way. Granted there is a case to be made that delivery drivers are doing a semi dangerous job because they are out late at night and they are dealing with the general public but if you were to look at the balance of who and what a firm cares for, is it more likely to be a lower paid employee or the bottom line on a Profit and Loss Statement?

This phenomenon isn't unique among service industries though. GPS technology which keeps track of how someone is driving (I assume that's how this works) can also be fitted to the cars of the general public.


QBE's Insurance Box claims to offer savings on the basis that someone is a 'good driver'. Really? Please forgive my suspicion but since when did an insurance company start caring about how well someone drives? Insurance by definition is a monetary hedge against a bad thing from happening and so it stands to reason that an insurance company would want to avoid paying out when that bad thing happens. If the Insurance Box is keeping track of speed and braking then there's a very strong possibility that they can avoid paying out on claims if they have the proof that the driver was speeding at the time of an incident or if they can cast doubt on the case.

I was once in an "accident" in which I supposedly ran into the back of a Toyota Camry coming home from work. The chap's insurance company AAMI claimed that I had left the scene of the "accident" without giving the driver my details. I had come over the brow of a hill and saw him stopped and so I did come to a screeching halt but fell short by almost thirty feet. This chap then must've taken down my number plate details because the first thing I knew about it was that I was being phoned up by AAMI who had contacted my insurance company.
Even though my little Ford Ka was completely unmarked, because AAMI had already made repairs on his Camry, I was unable to prove that I wasn't in the "accident"; so my insurer was on the hook for an accident which I didn't even have.

Given this, my opinion of insurance companies in general is lower than a snake's belly and so when I see things like GPS trackers in cars and buses, I have to wonder in whose favour the game is being rigged.
Whose safety are these firms really concerned for? Is it the fate of their employees or of their golden children who all share the name Dollar?

PS:
Having said all this, if everyone was forced to compulsorily carry black box recorders in their motor cars, I'm pretty sure that the standard of driving would increase by loads as people realised that their insurance claims weren't being paid out.

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