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.

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  1. icon
    Christine Sandquist (profile), 26 Jun 2012 @ 5:36pm

    Re: But but but...

    This is kind of a fine line. In the case of data mining, it's not so much people choosing what they're sharing as it is companies going through and compiling records based on even actions that would casually be considered to be fairly private, like what someone is buying at the grocery store. It seems a little wrong that anyone other than my credit card company or bank should be sharing my every purchase with, say, my insurance company.

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