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Thursday, 23 August 2012 17:56

Electronic Proof of Insurance Raises Privacy Concerns

Lawmakers in California say the heavily supported AB 1708, which would legalize electronic types of insurance proof, raises privacy concerns about authorities’ access to personal information stored on mobile phones. Three unanimous votes pushed the legislation through the state Assembly in less than two months, and the Senate recently amended the bill again on July 5. The legislation was introduced to keep up with new technology.

Some concerns are related to information stored on mobile phones that, when presented to authorities, could be accidentally revealed when a driver offers the phone as proof of coverage.

“At issue … is what can be done with the information, especially under the laws of criminal procedure,” the legislative analysis stated.

Lawmakers added a provision  narrowing authorities’ access to information on the phones, prohibiting them “from viewing any other content on the mobile electronic device.”

Authors of the analysis warn that the state’s Proposition 8 from 1982 and the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution give authorities greater power over criminal evidence they can seize.

“Practically speaking, this might mean that any person who hands their cell phone over to a peace officer voluntarily risks disclosure of private information accidentally revealed, even though AB 1708 only narrowly authorizes peace officers to view evidence of financial responsibility,” the analysis states, adding that there have been reports of some officers accepting electronic forms, at their discretion, due to the vagueness of the code sections that cover proof of insurance.

Many insurers already make electronic proof of coverage available instantly after a driver buys a policy, whether it is through a scanned image of the policy card or coverage documents that can be uploaded and displayed on a mobile phone.

“With more and more companies connecting with their customers and providing services via mobile applications, it seems that now is the time for the state of California to provide the same convenience to their customers—the people of our state,” the analysis stated.

The bill is backed by industry regulators in the state, the Association of California Insurance Companies and the Personal Insurance Federation of California, which expressed support in the analysis of the bill because it provided a “green” option.

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