Car insurer backs down on Facebook discount scheme
Changing the odds
Everyone would be happier with lower insurance premiums. Which is why in recent years insurance companies have been experimenting with fresh ways to lower individuals’ premiums in return for mitigating risk. For example, some vehicle underwriters will offer reduced rates for drivers with on-board dash cameras that record information that could help to quickly resolve a dispute in the event of an accident.
However, the latest initiative by a British insurer has landed caused a kerfuffle with the public. Admiral has, in fact, been forced to scale back a new scheme that uses information collected from a social media platform to look carefully the personalities of car owners before assigning them a risk profile and a potential discount level.
So much for innovation
Admiral had been ready to announce its ‘firstcarquote’ product in November 2016 but was forced to rethink just hours from launch, after Facebook blocked it. Facebook argued that the privacy of its users was its first priority and that the platform had clear rules about how information obtained from the site should be used.
According to Facebook’s platform policy its data should not be used to ‘make decisions about eligibility, including whether to approve or reject an application or how much interest to charge on a loan’.
Admiral’s plan had been to map the Facebook accounts of first-time car owners against personality traits associated with safe driving. Using this approach, anyone who appeared conscientious and organised would score highly.
Posts and likes – though not photos – would provide evidence of behaviour linked to these desirable characteristics. In the same way, any information that indicated overconfidence – such as excessive use of exclamation marks or the use of absolutes such as ‘always’ or ‘never’- would go against a user.
Big Brother tactics?
While the scheme was designed to be voluntary with a view to offering discounts rather than enforcing increases against premiums, it still could be seen to be intrusive. Admiral denied it would have access to customers’ private information and said that the scheme would allow first-time drivers to share some social data with them for ‘a simple, discounted quote’. The product has since been launched with reduced functionality.
A spokesperson for Facebook commented: ‘We have made sure anyone using this app is protected by our guidelines and that no Facebook user data is used to assess their eligibility. Facebook accounts will only be used for login and verification purposes.’
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