In a 12 page pullout piece in The Times last week, which focused on the insurance business, technology is seen as the panacea to their industry ills – literally.
In one frightening statement an insurer says: “Life policies could soon be sold on the basis of a selfie, without the need for a medical.” This statement comes about from new facial recognition technology that can identify your age and lifestyle choices such as smoking.
Insurance will soon be personal rather than product orientated. Driving cars has already become one of them. Technology will alert the insurance company what vehicle is being driven and how aggressively – or otherwise, determining the cost of each drive.
The upside says the Times, is that these greater insights provided to insurance companies can reduce premiums to many careful people, but for those it decides are riskier, many may never get cover at all.
Gene sequencing will quite likely be used to determine whether an individual is likely to get illnesses or calculate longevity that will price risk. Privacy and discrimination will be the battleground for civil liberty organisations who already know they lost that battle a few years ago.
Back in 2014, this particular assault on our civil liberties was already underway. Millions of NHS records were sold to nearly 200 private firms, many were insurance companies, and neither government nor NHS officials know where details of patients actually ended up. Then last year 1.6 million patient records were harvested by Google’s ‘DeepMind‘ project with information collected over five years. No-one gave their permission, no hint of a prosecution for breaches of basic laws such as data protection.
$2billion has already been invested in the insurance tech industry, with the UK seeing a tripling of investment in just the last year. It appears that the data crunching capability of the digital world is a game changer for everyone, especially insurers. The power of wearable technology is testament to that. It is inevitable that insurers will tailor risk to lifestyle, they are already doing this.
The use of dynamic predictable data, supercomputing and artificial intelligence are where the new possibilities exist most though.
Whether you like the idea or not, keeping your data private will eventually end with insurers penalising you as they know less about you and spread the risk by increasing premiums or may even refuse the risk at all. The Times quotes one transnational insurer as saying “the digital insurer is becoming inevitable” where the days of a “standard insurance contract are over.”
One company offers ‘behind-the-scenes services’ to insurers. Here they help to ‘condition the behaviour of consumers’, for example, but not limited to, monitoring the driving capabilities of individuals and offering coaching if it detects poor decision making behind the wheel. Another insurer offers deals on gym membership that exchanges active behaviour for cinema tickets, monitoring the film watched, no doubt to determine personality type.
By 2020, it is predicted that each of us will have 27 internet connected devices. The insurance industry is ready to capitalise on the data it will provide. One insurance tech broker is already in operation that “is built for the smart-phone generation, who expect a fast and frictionless user experience, every time.” It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide personalised quotes. But you have to be ‘out-there’ with your smartphone harvesting your every move in life to take advantage.
What this company does though is disadvantage many consumers, typically the middle aged and older, who are wary of platforms such as social media and the ‘inter-connected’ world as it is already.
And what if you happen to be diagnosed with a mental illness at some stage during your lifetime like a quarter of all British adults. One third of young adults under 23 years of age in the US have been arrested for minor offences – all this adds to a personal risk file going forward.
Contrary to the willingness of insurers and the government – willingness to share certain data is not widely supported by consumers. Internet browsing, movement data, DNA data, social and images shares, purchasing and financial details and credit scores are top of the list to be kept private. But all this data will have to be submitted for online insurance brokers and insurers to offer the best prices. The depressing inevitability is staring us all in the face. Do it, or be penalised.
The rise of telematics whilst driving a car is a case in point when it comes to adapted behaviours. Telematics measure miles driven, hard braking, rate of acceleration, speed, time of day, GPS routes, use of electronics and behaviour around hazardous zones. Knowing this shapes your premiums and ultimately your driving style. You might think this is good until you buy a bottle of France’s best grape juice at the shop you just drove to. Now you’re a drinker because your credit card says so. How much you buy and the impact on premiums is another decision the industry will make.
In the US, there has been a strong backlash against biometric screening as part of corporate wellness programmes. Insurers are now openly exploiting data to exploit people, especially those that are vulnerable one way or another. This is because the health industry in America is private and consequently drowning in corruption. Since 2016 there has been an epidemic of hacking the health industry where 113 million people have had their personal data stolen. One has to wonder who the end-users of this information is aimed at.
The whole 12 page pull-out in the Times makes for utterly depressing reading when considering the future. The insurance business is now going to measure the risk on everything you do including what is in your weekly shopping basket. A fews bottles of Chardonnay, a pack of oven chips and BBQ sauce will push up premiums for cars, health, property and anything else you can think of. In one quote, an industry insider says “what technology will allow is to prevent more and more of the risks that matter to us personally.” This means us doing nothing at all as far as insurers are concerned. The article convincingly boasts of a future where “by 2035 most people will have a wearable device designed to monitor personal health.” What they really mean is, you will have a wearable device or you not be insured.
In another quote from a commercial feature in the same pullout regarding telematics in cars: “these services with online rewards, are designed ultimately to condition the behaviour of users to encourage them to drive more safely.” Imagine that extended out to every facet of your life when you consider what is insurable.
The reason we don’t smoke as much these days is the tax the government places upon that activity. The same with water meters, the decisions we make buying cars because of the cost of government tax on fuel. Again, imagine all the decisions of your private life being influenced by cost.
Are you and your family all healthy? Is a parent or sibling suffering a disease that will cause you insurable risk to increase. Will a blood test determine all manner of premiums? Will social media accounts determine insurability? Is having a good time going to be limited by data driven insurance? And will we hide these behaviours? Will we falsify our social media activities or ask others to bring alcohol to our homes like contraband?
Britain is already recognised by the United Nations as an endemic surveillance state. Insurance will be at the forefront of this awful view of the future that determines how we should lead our lives.
Our future world is largely directed by the current crop of useless so-called world leaders who are clearly pushing us into a place of withering obedience with the unauthorised use of 360 degree state surveillance. New technology is somehow seen as the road to liberty, contentment and prosperity, but the truth is, our future is being shaped by a system that will destroy our civil liberties, crush our human rights and it will eventually ensnare and trap us all, much as they are attempting in China and Japan with social credit mechanisms and pre-crime technology which is a truly frightening prospect.
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