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Your insurance company is watching… Privacy Tactic.


Insurance companies are starting to cash in on social media.  The information you give your friends can increase your insurance premiums – or worse, get your application for insurance denied.

House insurance?

Those who use Twitter might find their house insurance premiums are increased by around 10%.  Twitter users might make statements like going on holiday… leaving now.  Which tells a burglar that your house is empty, and you won’t be back for  2 weeks.

Medical insurance?

In one of the biggest tests, the U.S. arm of British insurer Aviva PLC looked at 60,000 recent insurance applicants. It found that a new, “predictive modeling” system, based partly on consumer-marketing data, was “persuasive” in its ability to mimic traditional techniques.

The research heralds a remarkable expansion of the use of consumer-marketing data, which is traditionally used for advertising purposes.

This data increasingly is gathered online, often with consumers only vaguely aware that separate bits of information about them are being collected and collated in ways that can be surprisingly revealing. The growing trade in personal information is the subject of a Wall Street Journal investigation into online privacy.

A key part of the Aviva test, run by Deloitte Consulting LLP, was estimating a person’s risk for illnesses such as high blood pressure and depression. Deloitte’s models assume that many diseases relate to lifestyle factors such as exercise habits and fast-food diets.

This kind of analysis, proponents argue, could lower insurance costs and eliminate an off-putting aspect of the insurance sale for some people.

Lower insurance?

The argument used is that it could lower insurance – yes, for say 1 person, but is more likely to raise premiums for another 9 people.  Insurance companies are there to make a profit – not to lower prices.  If they can find a reason to charge you more – then that’s good business.

The largest marketing-database companies in the U.S. include Acxiom, Alliance Data Systems Corp., Experian PLC, and Infogroup. Each says it has detailed information on more than 100 million U.S. households, though contents of their databases vary as do their rules related to data use.

There are myriad sources of personal data. Acxiom recently told investors it takes in three billion pieces of information daily as businesses seek to “monetize” information about their customers. Some retailers share information about purchases made by people, including item description, price and the person’s name.

Increasingly, information comes from people’s online behavior. Acxiom says it buys data from online publishers about what kinds of articles a subscriber reads—financial or sports, for example—and can find out if somebody’s a gourmet-food lover from their online purchases. Online marketers often tap data sources like these to target ads at Web users.

“Personally identifiable data from the online world is merged with personally identifiable information from the offline world, every day,” says Jennifer Barrett, Acxiom’s head of global privacy and public policy. She also says that, while Acxiom does store personally identifiable information, it doesn’t store or merge anonymous online-tracking data, such as Web-browsing records.

Your claim is refused

How long until your insurance claim is refused, because you mentioned your holiday “online”, and therefore told burglars to raid your goods.  If you leave a car unlocked, the insurance company won’t pay out.  How long until that’s applied to social media?

As a privacy tactic, stop talking about these issues online.  Tell your friends about insurance spies.


Be careful what you say online.  Your insurance company is watching…

  1. This is actually quite frightening, and that’s not counting the data they might be getting from ‘loyalty’ cards and other forms of data mining that happens online. It could easily have been Phorm trading that data with insurers.

    BTW, you might be interested in a local Crypto/Privacy group currently being set up in Cardiff:


  2. Thanks! I’d love to attend. The sheer scale of data mining and profiling is beyond comprehension, and it won’t be to our advantage.

    Insurance companies were offering 10% reduction in insurance premiums for GPS tracking. But it measures how sharply you took a corner, or if you ever went over the speed limit.

    My fear would be this… if you ever made a major claim – would they use that data to deny your claim? I believe they would. Cases like, you’ve broken the speed limit 10 times in 2 weeks – you’re a bad driver, we’ll either charge you more – or won’t pay out.

    If you’re refused by one – the impact is across the board, as it’s shared via Experian… The situation is not good. 😦 But there’s no awareness of it…


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