The Economist recently had an interesting article on how insurance companies are increasingly using data mining
to "analyze risk." That is, they look through the data which was originally collected for the purpose of better marketing, and use it as a tool to see if you lead an unhealthy life. However, the really interesting point is highlighted by Kashmir Hill
, where an exec at a datamining company admits that he's changed his habits because of this. Not his eating habits, mind you. But how
he purchases food:
Insurers' interest in data mining will only grow, says Kevin Pledge, the boss of Insight Decision Solutions, an underwriting-technology consultancy based near Toronto.... Insurance firms will also analyse grocery purchases for clues about policyholders, he predicts. But that raises some sticky questions about privacy. Mr Pledge himself has begun to forgo his supermarket loyalty-card discount on junk food and pay for his burgers in cash. Promising as data mining is, much will depend on how regulators, and consumers, react.
He also notes that he's working on a system that will go through your social media profiles to see if you provide any info insurers may want to know about. This, of course, is the natural extension of our data explosion. But, in my experience, all of these companies who collect data seem to do an incredibly bad job at getting it right. And... as long as there's that "cash hole" for data, it's hard to see how accurate such information would really be.