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‘Intrusive’ Admiral car insurance initiative blocked by Facebook two hours from launch

An Admiral insurance initiative that planned to use Facebook as a way of analysing the personality of a car owner to set the price of their premium has been blocked.

Admiral’s ‘firstcarquote’ was blocked by Facebook just two hours before it went live, a report in the Guardian claimed, with the social media giant citing the fact it breached its privacy guidelines.

Section 3.15 of Facebook’s platform policy states that personal data should never be used to “make decisions about eligibility, including whether to approve or reject an application or how much interest to charge on a loan”.

Admiral has since said firstcarquote – a voluntary scheme that claimed it could save young drivers up to £350 a year on their premium – will launch with “reduced functionality” after discussions with Facebook.

The plan was to examine the Facebook likes and posts of those who opted in (but not photos) to look for instances of personality traits linked to safe driving. These are said to include writing in concise sentences, using lists and providing a set time when arranging to meet up with friends.

On the flip-side, it would also look for signs of overconfidence such as the heavy use of exclamation marks and frequent use of the words “always” and “never” as opposed to “maybe”.

Speaking after the Facebook decision, an Admiral spokesperson said: “Firstcarquote, which will allow first time drivers to voluntarily share some social data with insurers for a simple and discounted quote, is currently a beta product.

“Admiral does not have access to customers’ Facebook data and does not hold social media data to set prices for its customers.

“Following discussions with Facebook the product is launching with reduced functionality, allowing first-time drivers to login using Facebook and share some information to secure a faster, simpler and discounted quote.”

Privacy groups were relieved to see Facebook step in. Open Rights executive director Jim Killock told the Guardian: “We need to think about the wider consequences of allowing companies to make decisions that affect us financially or otherwise, based on what we have said on social media.

“Such intrusive practices could see decisions being made against certain groups based on biases about race, gender, religion or sexuality – or because their posts in some way mark them as unconventional. Ultimately, this could change how people use social media, encouraging self-censorship in anticipation of future decisions.

“Young people may feel pushed into such schemes because of financial constraints. The right to keep things private shouldn’t be the preserve of those who can afford it.”

Quite how Admiral got this far with the service, which is said to have been online ahead of the official launch, is anyone’s guess. Stupidity or a masterclass in marketing? You decide – but we get the feeling being judged by your online persona is an inevitability.

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