Facebook Refuses Insurance Company’s Plan to Use Personal Data to Set Premiums

© AP Photo / Ben MargotFacebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. - Sputnik International
Facebook has blocked a proposal from the UK’s Admiral Insurance to analyze the Facebook accounts of first-time car drivers to decide whether to offer them discounts.

"Admiral Insurance will analyze the Facebook accounts of first-time car owners to look for personality traits that are linked to safe driving. For example, individuals who are identified as conscientious and well-organized will score well," Admiral proposed, according to the Guardian.

The company would have assessed the client's character traits by looking at posts and likes. It asserted that "Facebook users who write in short, concise sentences, use lists, and arrange to meet friends at a set time and place, rather than just "tonight," would be identified as conscientious. In contrast, those who frequently use exclamation marks and phrases such as "always" or "never" rather than "maybe" could be overconfident," the Guardian wrote.

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But Facebook's policy claims that using data from the social network for making decisions about eligibility of users is restricted. Therefore, the launch of Admiral's firstcarquote mobile app was postponed until it reduced functionality — users can sign in with their Facebook public profile, but the app will not analyze their data. Users can also be asked to — voluntarily — answer questions.
The unrestricted use of social media algorithms has lately come under fire. For instance, Facebook itself faced criticism for using algorithms that are not clear of bias. Last week, German chancellor Angela Merkel said "algorithms must be made more transparent."

"Algorithms, when they are not transparent, can lead to a distortion of our perception, they can shrink our expanse of information," she told an October news conference.

"The law says that the use of personal information must be fair," the UK's Information Commissioner's Office put it. "A key part of that fairness is ensuring that people are informed about how their data will be collected and used and it is processed fairly. This applies to using personal information acquired from social networking sites. We are paying particular attention to the increasing use of new ‘social scoring' techniques to ensure that these developments proceed in accordance with the law."

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