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Facebook Blocks Insurance Firm Admiral From Using Profile Data

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Is Facebook a privacy champion? Admiral banned from using FB data in order to price insurance policies

Facebook has prevented British insurance firm Admiral from using its data in order to price up insurance policies.

Admiral had on Wednesday launched a new app called ‘firstcarquote’, but its arrival has now been delayed after Facebook revoked its permission to use its data.

The idea behind the app is that it would use, “social data personality assessments, matched to real claims data, to better understand first time drivers and more accurately predict risk.”

Policy Breach

The thinking is that responsible young people could allow Admiral access to their Facebook posts and likes in order to obtain cheaper car insurance (up to 15 percent cheaper apparently).

It is reportedly that Admiral would use an algorithm to analyse Facebook profiles to determine whether prospective customers would be careful drivers.

Facebook’s decision to prevent the app using its data is down to the fact that it actually breaches the social network’s terms and conditions, which state “don’t use data obtained from Facebook to make decisions about eligibility, including whether to approve or reject an application or how much interest to charge on a loan.

However it work noting that Facebook has not disabled the app, and Facebook data will be used for login and verification.

“Protecting the privacy of the people on Facebook is of utmost importance to us,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechweekEurope. “We have clear guidelines that prevent information being obtained from Facebook from being used to make decisions about eligibility.

“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.”

“Our understanding is that Admiral will then ask users who sign up to answer questions which will be used to assess their eligibility,” said the social network.

TechweekEurope was unable to reach Admiral at the time of writing.

Privacy Champion?

Facebook’s stance on the matter has been welcomed by campaign groups, which places the social network in the somewhat unusual position of being a ‘privacy champion‘.

“There are significant risks in allowing the financial or insurance industry to base assessments on our social media activity,” warned the Open Rights Group. “We might be penalised for our posts or denied benefits and discounts because we don’t share enough or have interests that mark us out as different and somehow unreliable. Whether intentional or not, algorithms could perpetuate social biases that are based on race, gender, religion or sexuality.”

“Admiral’s application shows a lack of understanding of the risks and responsibilities in parts of the financial industry,” it said.

“Indeed, Admiral appear to have not even done the basics and read Facebook’s terms and conditions, or understood the capacity for their product to be gamed,” it said. “If this disregard is symptomatic, it may point to a need for sector specific privacy legislation for the financial industry, to further protect consumers from abuse through use of inappropriate or unreliable data.”

“We need to think about the wider consequences of allowing companies to make decisions that affect us financially or otherwise, based on what we have said on social media,” continued executive director Jim Killock.

“Young people may feel pushed into such schemes because of financial constraints,” he said. “The right to keep things private shouldn’t be the preserve of those who can afford it.”

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