Can a Facebook Post Make Your Insurance Cost More?

Not exactly about books, but an interesting point about unintended consequences of social media.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Did you document your hair-raising rock-climbing trip on Instagram? Post happy-hour photos on Facebook ? Or chime in on Twitter about riding a motorcycle with no helmet? One day, such sharing could push up your life insurance premiums.

In January, New York became the first state to provide guidance for how life insurers may use algorithms to comb through social media posts—as well as data such as credit scores and home-ownership records—to size up an applicant’s risk. The guidance comes amid expectations that within years, social media may be among the data reviewed before issuing life insurance as well as policies for cars and property.

. . . .

“We’re going through a period now where most life insurers are exploring using all types of data, not just data they get directly from the customer proactively, but other external sources of data—social media being a big one,” said Ari Libarikian, a senior partner at McKinsey & Co. in New York.

He anticipates that some day, underwriters will assess potential customers with automated reports based in part on their social media use. “It’s here to some degree and it’s coming in the next couple of years,” Mr. Libarikian said.

. . . .

What should I avoid posting on social media?

Given how digital histories can linger, people should go easy on photos of risky behavior such as smoking and instead play up boasts about healthy activities, like recent cycling trips or marathons, said Mike Vogt. He is executive director of data and analytics for SPR, a firm whose services include using artificial intelligence and social media accounts to help insurers process claims.

“Paragliding, ice-climbing, riding a motorcycle while drinking a beer: They are a little over the top, but honestly, I’ve been surprised at what people post,” he said. “That history never goes away, even if you remove the post a few hours later.”

. . . .

How are insurers using social-media data right now?

Some insurers are using social media in handling claims. Insurers can check explanations of auto claims against Facebook testimonials about an accident. And they could challenge disability claims if posted photos from a ski trip, for example, contradict an impairment or illness.

What is holding back the use of social media in underwriting?
The technology to study individuals’ social media accounts to make underwriting decisions is underdeveloped but likely inevitable, consultants and data scientists say. “We know that underwriting is the next big thing” to mine online postings, SPR’s Mr. Vogt said.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

As PG has mentioned before, he is extraordinarily thankful that social media didn’t exist during his college years. Suffice to say, he has changed quite a bit since then.

10 thoughts on “Can a Facebook Post Make Your Insurance Cost More?”

    • Happened to one of mom’s co-workers. The kids posted detailed info about their trip plans. Some of their “friends” broke in and cleaned out the house. The parents were a wee bit irked at their children for posting the information after being told not to.

  1. Ah, yet more proof that it’s better to have no friends – lest one of them post you doing something stupid; or worse, you not doing something stupid while with a group that is.

    “Here PG, hold my beer and watch this!” 😉

    And insurance companies love OnStar and the like, so much info about how you drive and to where and how often.

  2. Had a family member sued because of an auto accident. Yep, the person suing had their case damaged because of images and comments posted to social media.

    I can easily imagine insurers doing their due diligence by checking out social media posts.

    The problems comes from the fact that very few people are entirely honest in their postings. People are good, great, or fantastic, and all the problems they’re having are usually much less obvious. (Mental health, etc.) This is a known phenomenon and leads to people comparing their lives to something that’s very much like a tv show instead of a real life.

    But it is an additional source of info, no doubt. I just don’t know that it’ll help anyone, except insurers looking for an excuse to rate someone at a more expensive level. Highly unlikely, imo, to ever help anyway get a better rate. This will be a negative, always.

    Don’t have accounts? You must be depressed or otherwise an anti-social personality and you’ll end up rated more negatively too.

    IMO. Of course. 😀

    (Says she who has little to no social media presence as an individual or an author with a brand to keep up.)

    • Don’t have accounts? You must be depressed or otherwise an anti-social personality and you’ll end up rated more negatively too.

      True! Very true, this is exactly what those of us in the news business found out early on about Google’s SEO algorithms. Google’s steadfast belief was that extroverts are good, but good people link to good people, and bad people link to bad people. And introverted hermits who linked to no one? Latent bad people, that’s who! No cookie for you. That’s what helped convince the print editors to get on board with what we were doing on the digital team.

      I also do not do the social media thing. I guess I am a bad girl 😀

  3. Ah, the advantages of being middle-aged now, and in my thirties during the onset of the internet age. Made most of my mistakes early on and learned the all-important adages: “Don’t post while angry” is equally as important as “Don’t post while drunk”.

    Now I’m just freaking boring. My friend and I joke all the time that if the FBI is tapping our phone lines, we’re boring to death the agents who have to listen to us. “Score! I got half-price boneless chicken breasts at Kroger!” “Nice! There’s a sale at Kohl’s tomorrow; we have to go.”

    • When Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s text messages with his chief of staff / mistress came to light, a pair of editors who were married to each other expressed amazement at the steaminess of the messages.

      “We only text each other to say, I’m hungry! Are you? What should we do for dinner?” the husband said. “We never text each other anything scandalous. Maybe we should …”

      I think I shall also be grateful I lead an uneventful life on the web 🙂

  4. Before the internet, there were other ways of getting into trouble.

    In the 80s, in the infancy of email via mainframes (PROFS et alia), I was managing a group of programmers on a project for our customer, IBM. We had access to several mainframe “folders” for our work, and when our project came to a sudden and unexpected halt, I had to check each folder for leftover material so that I could copy it and then delete it from the customer’s machine.

    Imagine my surprise when I came across a cache of private emails between two of my programmers in an obscure folder. Both were married, but not to each other. Passionate reminiscences, travel arrangements, etc. This was the maildrop where they made their plans. (Imagine if the client had found it first…)

    I was human enough to read the correspondence before deleting it, but I never told them nor exposed them nor made a private copy. None of my business. Think of the trouble they could have gotten into.

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