In the digital age, where technology is growing faster than we can imagine, it serves as an important reminder that data protection and security must be at the forefront of all our minds.
Recently, car insurance company Admiral suggested using Facebook profiles as a way of assessing who should have cheaper car insurance. Facebook has blocked Admiral’s seemingly absurd claims; and rightly so!
Admiral’s plan of action
Admiral reportedly wanted to offer cheaper car insurance on the agreement that they could access their customers’ Facebook profiles, with their interests primarily being in customer’s posts. It stemmed from the creation of a new insurance service called firstcarquote, which was supposedly created to help new or young drivers get cheaper car insurance.
The method is that the service was to access drivers’ Facebook profiles which will allow them to gain a better understanding of the “type of driver” they may be by analysing their profile and posts to form an understanding of their personality, and therefore whether they would be a “safe” driver or not.
The company purports to offer 5 to 15 per cent discounts on the insurance using this method, and goes on to say that the Facebook data will only be used to calculate driver safety and to get a gauge on what discount would be applicable, if any.
Risk of full access
The data is processed and compared with new drivers in the community to make a prediction on what type of driver you may be. Admiral says that the data is only processed to ascertain how you ‘may’ drive. As well as being potentially discriminatory, the company risks breaching data protection rights afforded to individuals. I say this because it allows an external company to access Facebook profiles, although Admiral says that the data accessed will only be for the purposes of car insurance.
Nevertheless, it gives them full access to very personal data…
At the end of the day, Facebook has the overriding decision, and has thankfully rejected Admiral’s proposals of full access.
Facebook recognises that allowing Admiral to extract information like this may be a breach of their data protection promise to their users. The social media’s spokesperson said that anyone using Facebook is protected by their guidelines, and none of their information will be accessed or leaked to assess their eligibility for cheaper car insurance.
Customers’ data protection rights
It’s evident that Admiral disregarded their customers’ privacy when they created the service for cheaper car insurance. It’s understood that if Admiral was allowed access to the Facebook profiles, they would ask users to answer questions which then would be used to assess their eligibility.
Facebook continues to defend privacy rights by stating that data must not be used to make decisions about eligibility. However, following discussions with Facebook, the firstcarquote service will allow car users to log into their Facebook which will allow users to secure a quote quicker than they would via the website.
That sort of thing is fairly typical though – you can access a lot of websites these days by using the “Log in with Facebook” tool.
Word of warning
It’s important that Facebook keeps a beady eye on Admiral, as what looks like an innocent access to some Facebook profiles could turn into the next data breach scandal. Facebook and Admiral will need to cooperate closely to minimise any risk of data protection infringements, making sure their users are fully informed regarding the situation and if they wish to do so, and making sure they can opt out of anything they’re not comfortable with.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who is responsible for investigating data protection breaches must remain vigilant as a breach could be devastating, seeing as over 1.5 billion people worldwide are connected to the social media site.
IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.
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