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. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 Jun 2012 @ 1:03am


    Unless a data mining firm makes their own record of it in your file. There is no limit to how long they can keep data.

    A media story I saw online was about people who were having minor accidents and before they could even get a copy of the report there was a lawyer at the door or on the phone with a copy of the report and offering to help.

    This data is being gathered and collected, and there are no limits on what they can get, how long they keep it, or how it is used.

    The larger problem is when they attach someone else's record to yours.
    If a credit bureau attaches someone's information to your account, there is a process (no matter how much of a PITA it is) to have it corrected and they have to fix it.
    If a private data gathering firm screws up, you might never know. The data collected is "private" and they have no obligation to make sure it is the least bit accurate. Without people challenging what is in the records companies who use the firms services have no idea if they are getting good data.

    I've gotten tons of snail mail offering to help me get my free scooter through medicare. Except I'm no where near old enough for medicare, have nothing wrong that requires the use of a scooter, and they just keep sending more.
    That's more annoying than anything, but if that same record was handed to an insurance company it is very possible I would be facing higher rates.

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