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Thursday, 03 January 2019 14:29

Insurers, like banks, utilising social media to spy

Last week we documented how banks are using and tracking people’s social media presence and profile to help them make a decision when a customer submits a loan application.

We highlighted the kind of things that they were looking for, such as whether it appears that a person is always out socialising (i.e. spending money) and whether a person’s lifestyle is fitting to receive a loan. Banks, according to industry insiders, have started using private companies to scour through posts and photos to build up a ‘social media personality portfolio’ that they hope will help them understand what kind of person the loan applicant is, and whether they fit the criteria for receiving money in the form of a personal loan.

So what's to fear?

It’s quite scary stuff really, and many people have since been in touch with us to question the legalities of this practice since we brought it to people’s attention. The fact of the matter is that it is perfectly legal. They (the banks) are only visiting a profile that has been made public by the creator of that profile (you). Everyone knows the power of social media these days, and the banks are just using it to their advantage by being able to use it as another character reference tool.

The whole point of this article, however, is to highlight the fact that it isn’t just the banks that are using technology in this way – insurers are at it too.

Insurers haven’t got the best reputation and are not held in the highest of regard with the general public. The typical consensus is that insurers will try their level best to get out of paying for a claim that has been made to them – but people shouldn’t fear, as experts unanimously agree that it is highly unlikely that an insurer would reject a claim based upon any photographs or postings that they see on social media. They can, however, use social media to help them get to the bottom of an issue if they believe a claim is fraudulent or if a person isn’t being truthful in their claim. In this respect, it is entirely understandable that insurers would want to get to the bottom of a ‘fishy’ claim and if there is technology available to them that allows them to do this, then why shouldn’t they utilise this to their advantage? 

We appreciate that people may feel quite fearful that insurers would want to pry using social media, but if they (the insurers) utilise it in the right way, it will benefit each and every one of us. Fraudulent claims cost the industry billions of pounds every year, and it is the every-day honest ones like you that end up paying for these people as insurers are forced to put up premiums. If fraudulent claim figures can be brought down by using social media as a tool to spot holes in a person’s story, you’d expect the saving to be passed on…or at least we can hope! An example would be if a person makes a claim to an insurer about an incident that occurred on a particular day, at a specific time, yet the insurer goes on social media and can see that the person was somewhere different to what they had claimed. This would warrant a further and more thorough investigation by the insurers before they paid out – and we absolutely can’t see any harm in this.

The above is an example of when social media ‘stalking’ may not be that bad, but there are instances where it may be taken too far. This was evident a couple of years ago when one of the biggest insurers in the country tried to implement a system that would see a person’s car insurance quote being linked to how and what they posted on their social media profiles. 

The insurer at the time believed that the way people posted on social media may have shown certain things about a person’s character that could be linked to whether or not they were a good and safe driver. The insurer believed that if a person used lots of exclamation marks, lots of speech marks and emojis when they posted a sentence on social media. This could potentially highlight that they were a bubbly and confident character which in turn may have made them too self-assured when driving – this would have resulted in the insurer bumping up their premium. On the flip side of the coin, if a person was straight to the point in what they wrote and came across as quite bland on social media, the insurer deemed this to be a sign of a calm and collected driver and the premium may have been lesser than those mentioned above.

All we can say is thank goodness this idea never made it into the mainstream insurance industry. It’s a ridiculous concept and shows nothing about a person’s driving ability whatsoever. 

It does highlight, however, just what the future may hold for us regarding social media being used to affect various parts of our lives. People should be aware of what social media can say about people, and us should also acknowledge that social media profiling will feature quite a lot in the future. If people are aware of how companies can use information, however, people can be wary and be prepared. Knowledge is key.

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