Posted: January 22nd, 2017

Big Brother? Probably not yet, but there is more than a good chance some auto insurance provider will soon have an eye in the sky.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Police Department is still considering whether to continue its use of a not-so-secret-anymore surveillance program to “fight crime,” while the owner of the technology being used is considering looking to the private sector for additional clients. And that is where your auto insurance agency may – or may not – come in.

What is This “Secret Surveillance?”

For several months the Baltimore Police Department has partnered with Persistent Surveillance Systems, a company that for years has been honing its technology to surveil cities from 25,000 feet up. PSS uses specially equipped Cessna aircraft and can record and index over 32 square miles at once. Since at least 2012, PSS planes have been flying over major cities, unbeknownst to that city’s residents, as the company seeks to secure city contracts.

People Do Not Like Secrets, But…

When the Baltimore PD’s use of this secret surveillance system leaked to the public and privacy advocates, the blowback was tremendous. With public contracts in doubt, PSS owner, Ross McNutt, has a back-up plan. PSS intends to focus more on the private sector, specifically auto insurance companies.

Increasing Focus on Auto Insurers

According to Nutt, besides shootings and other violent crime, the PSS cameras captured between 60 and 70 accidents per day, over several months. And he is not talking about the “oops, I backed into your car” type of accident. He is talking about drivers who literally run three red lights, nail another car at an intersection, and put people in the hospital. Nutt’s plan is to market his company’s ability to collect aerial footage of the streets below. This would give the auto insurance provider a way to access video of accidents, determine which drivers are at fault, and ensure the validity of sketchy claims.

The Plan is in Motion

McNutt stresses that PSS has not signed any deals to track collisions, but they have other insurance-related jobs. The PSS surveillance aircraft could be seen flying up and down the East Coast. The purpose was to conduct surveys prior to and after Hurricane Matthew. The purpose was especially to pinpoint locations of extensive storm damage for its insurance clients.

So the next time you see that cute little plane in the sky – wave. Someone, somewhere will wave back.