Texting While Driving (and Invading My Privacy While Texting)
About a week ago, I received an automated message from AT&T telling me that I had a large overage charge for text messages. Considering I had signed up for the “unlimited” messaging plan, this seemed like a non-sequitur. Somehow a mistake had been made in switching me over to the iPhone 4 and I was put on a different plan in error. While it wasted some time, the matter was fairly easily resolved, and the charges were reversed. However, we were discussing the matter while I was driving to school over my car speakerphone (my attempt at multi-tasking) and the customer service rep kept texting me bits of information, like confirmation that my message plan had been switched, or the new amount of money that I owed. I turned it into a joke (there’s a low bar for customer service humor), because the rep had begun the conversation by warning me of the dangers of texting while driving. Every time the rep would send me a text message, I would tell her that, based on her warning, I couldn’t look at any or reply to any of the text messages, and she would laugh.
After the fourth text I didn’t look at while driving, she told me something that I have yet to verify, but which would be an interesting development, if confirmed. The customer service representative said that she had heard that AT&T was cooperating with several insurance companies. In order to reduce the number of accidents related to texting while driving, insurance companies were starting to investigate the cellphone records and texting records surrounding an accident. Your insurance company wants to know whether anyone was texting right before the accident happened. She said that AT&T was working with the insurance companies to deny these claims, and that AT&T was “turning over the records of texting.”
I agree that texting while driving is problematic and that distraction can lead to driver error and an increased accident rate. While unsafe, this behavior is illegal in some jurisdictions but legal in others. I guess what made me uneasy is AT&T’s cooperation to turn over these records, when I think most people tend to think that text messages or phone logs are not subject to being read or viewed unless the user makes them available (or otherwise leaks them). Other questions: what exactly will be revealed to my insurance company? What about the content of messages? Will it make a difference if the driver was texting or just receiving texts (as I was, from the AT&T representative), but not looking at them? My opinion: more transparency is called for.