Connectivity

Facebook Won’t Let Insurers Probe Your Profile

A plan to price policies based on likes and language has been blocked by the social network.

If there’s one thing insurance companies love more than careful people, it’s data. But one insurer’s attempt to gain extra insights from Facebook behavior has been stymied by the social network.

The Financial Times reported that the U.K.-based insurance company Admiral had intended to launch a new product this week called Firstcarquote. The idea was that customers looking to buy automobile insurance for the first time could opt into a scheme in which their Facebook data would be analyzed to determine whether they were high or low risk. Prices would be discounted—but not inflated—accordingly.

The firm planned to analyze likes and posts for characteristics that have been demonstrated to correlate with conscientiousness. So neat sentences and words associated with exactitude would elicit discounts, while exclamation points and words connoting overconfidence would not.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the concept met with limited approval. Privacy advocates threw up their hands, and now, according to the Guardian, Facebook has blocked Admiral's apps from gathering data from the social network, even if a user decided to use it. “We have clear guidelines that prevent information being obtained from Facebook from being used to make decisions about eligibility,” said a Facebook spokesperson to the newspaper.

It’s perhaps for the best: it seems unlikely that such linguistic analysis could accurately determine how safe a person’s driving is.

The concept of insurers gathering ever-more data about us to tweak policy pricing, however, looks set to endure. We recently wrote about the new trend of insurance companies subsidizing smart-home technology to get a better understanding of what’s happening inside your house, and car insurers have been using black boxes to gather data about driving habits for years.

While intrusive, those scenarios do at least see insurers gathering data that’s directly relevant to their policies. Clearly Facebook thinks the same can’t be said of your profile.

(Read more: Financial Times, Guardian, “Why Insurance Companies Want to Subsidize Your Smart Home”)