What do you post on your social media profile? Do you like to post photos of wild nights out, or do you prefer cat videos instead? Who would you be comfortable seeing what you choose to share? Would you let your car insurance company see it?
That’s what Admiral Car Insurance were proposing at the beginning of the month. Their product, ‘firstcarquote’, would analyze the Facebook feeds of first time drivers and give them discounts on their car insurance accordingly.
According to them, people who make definite plans, including exact times and places, are more likely to be careful drivers and so would get better discounts. People who use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ often, on the other hand, are over confident and so are more likely to be in car accidents.
The product was all ready to go, but was pulled by Facebook just hours before it was due to go live. This was due to privacy concerns, as it went against Facebook’s platform policy. Section 3.15 of the policy states that Facebook apps shouldn’t be used to ‘make decisions about eligibility, including whether to approve or reject an application or how much interest to charge on a loan’.
Privacy campaigners have praised the move, saying that the firstcarquote algorithm was a breach of Facebook user’s privacy. The tool was later released with a reduced functionality. Users could still sign up for it, but they just receive a flat rate discount that’s the same for all users.
The fact Admiral was trying to use this technology does raise some questions. It’s a universally acknowledged fact that everyone fudges the truth on social media. Who hasn’t used Facebook to try and make their life look better than it is? Plus, the fact that firstcarquote only used Facebook means that it’s missing out on media users are posting on other apps. Many young drivers will be portraying a different version of themselves on Snapchat or Twitter than they would be on Facebook. While we’re on the subject, what would stop anyone having a thorough edit of their Facebook profile in order to game the system for the best discount possible?
In short, it seems as though that firstcarquote was new technology for the sake of it, rather than something that was developed with a real use in mind. Admiral has received a lot of press coverage through it, although not in the way they were probably hoping. It will make a lot of us think about how we use social media in the future though, if more apps like this come into being.