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Thursday, 26 August 2010 17:48

Access and Use of Shop Data Raise Privacy Concerns for the Industry

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Concerns about data privacy prompted the formation this spring at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) of a taskforce focused on the subject. At CIC in Chicago in July, Tony Passwater, an industry trainer and executive director of the Indiana Auto Body Association, said that the new taskforce that he chairs has in recent weeks been discussing and finalizing its objectives.

The primary issue, he said, is that as the industry’s information providers move toward “cloud computing” systems—in which a shop’s estimate and even management system information is stored on the system provider’s computers rather than the shop’s— concerns are being raised about access to and use of the data.

“I don’t think the current data privacy policies and terms-of-use address all the ramifications of that,” Passwater said.

The topic was also highlighted by a panel during the CIC Insurer-Repairer Relations Committee, which discussed a “data rights” proposal crafted by another CIC committee. That statement says no third-party should capture or use in any way data produced by a shop—even if developed using or transmitted over a third-party’s software or network—without the specific authorization of the shop. The intended use of the data and who will have access to it must be clearly stated, the proposal reads.

Aaron Schulenburg, executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), said the problem isn’t that information providers don’t get shops’ permission to aggregate and sell their data. It’s more that shops aren’t given any choice but to sign away that right if they want to use any of the Big Three estimating systems, he said. Granting permission for the shop data to be used should be an option for the shop, not a requirement, Schulenburg said.

“We all need aggregated data,” Mike Lloyd of California Casualty said. “But as far as the individual repaier’s data, I believe that belongs to the shop. You should have that in the agreement with the vendor that you’re using. You should also have in the agreement that if you move to a different vendor, how do you get your data back so you can put it in your (new) system?”

That’s an issue several people on the panel brought up. One panelist, for example, said he was aware of an multi-shop operator who closed one location and could not get the data created for that location back from the information provider because the subscription for that location was no longer maintained.

Passwater said information providers argue that they should have some rights to estimate data prepared by users that are based on the information provider’s labor times and other data. But he compared it to buying lumber, saying that doesn’t allow you to own the land the wood was grown on nor give the lumber yard any right to the house you build with it. It’s my house. At some point in time, I should have the right to say what I do with my house,” Passwater said.

Scott Biggs, of Assured Performance Network, said some shops might not be overly concerned about this issue but likely will be if down the road the information providers charge a shop for access to the shop’s own aggregated data that the shop currently has access to as part of its management software system fee.

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