Social Media, Insurance, and You

Now that so many citizens voluntarily upload lots of details about their personal lives onto social media websites, corporations are on the prowl for ways to utilize all this data. Some hiring managers have made decisions based on some people’s google results. Schools have been known to fire teachers based on incriminating facebook photos. In one legendary case, a young man posted on his facebook that his car accident was caused by his driving under the influence of alcohol and was later arrested as a result.

Especially in industries that have to measure the risk of taking on clients, this information could prove invaluable. For example, lenders may want to look someone up online before approving a loan to see what kind of risk the borrower poses based on the “riskiness” of their online behavior and google search results. Now, some insurance companies are considering using a potential client’s online presence to determine the risk of taking them on as an insurance liability.

Already the laws for what online information can and can’t be used for decision making, particularly regarding job interviews, are very vague and don’t provide much direction. Furthermore, emails, browsing history, and search history are available to anyone who can get a subpoena after accusing someone of a crime, whether the accusation has any real grounds or not.

Some insurance agencies are taking advantage of devices that can be installed under the steering wheel of a car and rewarding those who use the device and drive safely with rewards for not causing accidents. Naturally, there are pros and cons to selling your privacy in exchange for some discounts,

This past November, UK insurance provider Admiral announced that it would try to use an algorithm that takes a person’s facebook posts and behavior and determines how responsible that person will be as a first-time car owner. In theory, simple metrics would be able to link certain facebook behavior with traits like “organization.” The program is entirely voluntary would offer awardees significant discounts. However, the week the initiative was supposed to launch, Facebook denied Admiral the ability move forward, saying that such behavior violates its terms of service meant to prevent agencies from using facebook information to determine insurance rates or coverage.

Although agencies may not be able to formally use facebook to determine rates, they may still be able to do so informally based on what they find on google, so it’s important to mind your online behavior. Be wary of over sharing online, and definitely make sure you disclose to your agent anything they may find online — you want to be the way they find out, not google. Mind your privacy settings and things published about you so that you control what an agent might find.

 

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