Popular insurance company Admiral wanted to trial a scheme whereby the contents of Facebook profiles of young drivers would be used in order to judge their safety as drivers (and thereby influence their insurance premiums). This is crazy right? But luckily for young drivers, Facebook gave them the thumbs down. This could have made it increasingly more difficult than it already is for young drivers to get a decent insurance rate.
Being Judged on your Posts and Likes.
Admiral’s idea for the trial is reported to have been for the insurance company to look at the posts and likes and other such interactions on a young driver’s Facebook profile and to use them in deciding the level of risk of the driver. Which is a bit barbaric since some people take social media less serious than others and use it to express themselves in different ways.
While Admiral would be viewing the details of the driver’s profile, the young driver would also be asked a series of questions, the answers would then be used to build a personality profile.
From the Facebook and personality profile, if driver’s risk was low, then they would be offered a discount between 5% and 15% on car insurance. Admiral would have sought the driver’s permission first to view the Facebook profile. Which really starts edging into people’s privacy online.
This trial was to be aimed at people aged 17 to 21-year-old drivers and would have used a separate app to offer the quote, the judgement about the driver’s level of risk would have involved the use of algorithms to judge a driver’s level of organisation.
So Why Did Facebook Say No?
Facebook was happy for drivers to use their accounts to log in to the Admiral app for verification. But Facebook was not willing to allow Admiral to use the details of drivers’ profiles to decide on discount eligibility.
Facebook’s reason for saying no to the first trial of its kind in the UK was that the privacy of the people on Facebook must be protected. And that there may also be an element of needing to protect Facebook’s own reputation.
What Now For Admiral’s Idea?
Although the original scheme was refused, drivers will still be able to log in to the Admiral app via Facebook before answering questions from Admiral which could still lead to a discount, but their Facebook profile as well as likes and posts will not be used to help decide a discount.
Criticism of the Trial.
Popular criticisms of the idea for the trial from tech and consumer rights experts, who have praised Facebook for saying no, have been that it could make social media users feel inhibited and could really detract from the purpose of social media.
This purpose is for people to be themselves or to voice themselves in ways they cannot do in the real world. Some people take this serious or take it in a much more relaxed fashion and should not really stand a way of profiling someone’s driving safety.
non-financial factors could be used in an unjust way to help make financial decisions. The algorithms involved could perpetuate social biases that are based on race, gender, religion or sexuality. This is a possibility that can happen with technologies like this.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
It makes sense that a business such as an insurer would want to devise a fast and efficient way of appealing to the younger generation of drivers and providing a sort of automated method of profiling and giving rewards based on safety. But this can and will raise ethical concerns and questions and could have set a bad precedent had it received the green light.
For example, A private health insurer wanted access to your Facebook profile or even company page in search of details about your lifestyle and health. Say you weren’t living the healthiest of lifestyles and the company found this information and then placed a negative on your insurance?
The fact that Facebook refused permission for the scheme meant they received good publicity. Admiral’s approach to ethics and its company reputation may have suffered some damage with the publicity. This serves as a warning about how quickly bad news travels and why we shouldn’t try to encroach people’s privacy as a means to dictate things like insurance and other such important services.