UK Insurer Wants to Analyze Facebook to Determine Rates

Following privacy concerns, Admiral Insurance has scaled down a plan to give discounts to customers who allow it to analyze their Facebook data.

The UK insurance giant planned to launch a new car insurance plan called "Firstcarquote," which looks at a driver's personality by analyzing their Facebook profiles. According to Admiral's website, the company intended to look for "indicators that you will be a careful driver." If it found them, it would offer a discount of between 5 and 15 percent off normal car insurance rates.

The types of things Admiral wanted to look for on Facebook, according to the Guardian, included concise sentences and arranging to meet friends at a specific time and place, which it believed were indicators of someone who might be less of an insurance risk. If he or she used exclamation marks and words like "always" or "never," that would represent a greater risk.

The service was scheduled to launch today, but Admiral reportedly delayed it in order to conform to Facebook's privacy policies, which prohibit companies from using the social network to determine eligibility for a product or service.

"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," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "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."

Admiral's website stresses that it will have temporary access to its customers' profiles; it will only use a "static snapshot" of social data during the quote process.

"Following discussions with Facebook, the product is launching with reduced functionality, allowing first-time drivers to login using Facebook and share some information to secure a faster, simpler and discounted quote," an Admiral spokesperson told the Guardian.

Privacy watchdogs condemned the new service, including the Open Rights Group, which said in a statement that it could encourage "self-censorship in anticipation of future decisions."

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