Car insurer pulls plug on Facebook pricing scheme
We’d all like lower insurance premiums, right? Well, in recent years, insurance companies have introduced fresh opportunities for customers to lower their premiums by restricting risk. For instance, some vehicle underwriters have offered reduced rates for drivers who agree to fit an on-board camera so that, in the event of an accident, fault can quickly be proved.
However, one company’s latest initiative has landed them in hot water with the public. British insurer Admiral has been forced to pull a new scheme that involves using information gathered from a social media platform to analyse the personalities of car owners and assign them a corresponding risk – and discount – level.
An embarrassing set-back
Admiral was due to launch its ‘firstcarquote’ product in November 2016 but was forced to withdraw it, just a couple of hours from going live, after Facebook blocked it. Facebook explained that the privacy of its users was paramount and that the platform had clear guidelines about how information obtained from the site should be used.
In fact, Facebook’s platform policy explicitly states that 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’.
Seemed like a good idea at the time?
Admiral had planned to use the Facebook accounts of first-time car owners to identify 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 be examined in the search for habits that are linked to these characteristics. Evidence may include writing in short sentences or making firm arrangements for meetings, including dates and times. Conversely, any information that indicated overconfidence – such as excessive use of exclamation marks or the use of absolutes such as ‘always’ or ‘never’- would put a black mark against a user.
The slippery slope
The scheme was designed to be voluntary, rather than mandatory, supposedly offering discounts rather than increases against premiums that could amount to hundreds of pounds a year. The company denied it would have access to customers’ data and said that the scheme would allow first-time drivers to share some social data with them for ‘a simple, discounted quote’. Admiral has since launched the product 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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