Data Mining Exec Pays For Burgers In Cash To Keep His Insurance Company From Knowing His Bad Diet Habits

from the privacy?-what's-that? dept

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.

Filed Under: data mining, health, insurance, social media


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2012 @ 4:29am

    Re: That is easy

    They are only ACTIVE for a certain number of years (10 in my state). However, I just renewed my drivers license on-line, and looked at my driving record. Guess what I found, records going all the way back to when I received my first drivers license. I am quite certain that will show up on a search by the insurance companies, but even if it doesn't, they will have digital copies of those records because, guess what insurance companies pull your driving record at every renewal, and keep their own copy.

    Once data is 'out there' it can never really be clawed back.

    It is very scary what data mining can find out about people.

    15 years ago, I needed to have my septic tank cleaned. I hoped on-line, did a yellow pages search to find a business, made a call and thought nothing about it. Then I noticed I started getting ads for septic tank services on-line. I wasn't terribly surprised by that. A couple of days later I started getting flyers in the mail. That was a real eye opener. They have perfected their abilities by now.

    I read a few weeks ago about a company (may have been on this site, I don't recall) that knew a girl was pregnant, something like 2 weeks BEFORE she bought a pregnancy test.

    Seems like 'Minority Report" (the film) may be closer to reality than you know. Be careful what you think, because others probably know (but they don't need the precogs).

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