According to The Guardian the British insurance firm had planned to use an algorithm that analyses the Facebook accounts of first-time car owners to look for personality traits that are linked to safe driving – for example, people who are deemed conscientious and organised will score well – though Facebook has since ruled that the scheme breached its privacy rules, scuppering Admiral's plan mere hours before its highly-publicised launch in the UK.
Dubbed ‘firstcarquote’, this method would examine posts and likes by the user (not photos) looking for habits like using short, concrete sentences and arranging to meet friends at a set time and place.
Meanwhile, a user could be identified as overconfident through the use of exclamation marks and the frequent use of the words “always” or “never” rather than “maybe”.
Although firstcarquote was primarily aimed at first-time drivers and owners, anyone with a license could have applied for this voluntary scheme.
The initiative would only offer discounts rather than price increases, which could have saved customers up to £350 ($562.50) a year, though Admiral hasn’t ruled out other uses for the algorithm.
Despite privacy concerns, Dan Mines, who led the firstcarquote project, told The Guardian that the scheme isn’t invasive of personal data.
“It is incredibly transparent,” he said before Facebook pulled the pin on the project, “If you don’t want to use it in a quote then you don’t have to.”
“We are doing our best to build a product that allows young people to identify themselves as safe drivers.”
The company says firstcarquote would allow younger drivers to identify themselves as safe without having to wait years to build up a good record and no claims bonus.
Yossi Borenstein, firstcarquote’s principal data scientist, said the technology would have evolved over time and as more customers brought more data.
“Just like conscientiousness there are other traits which can be indicative of safe driving,” he said.
“Our algorithm for calculating what ‘safe’ looks like is constantly learning, as we match social data to actual claims data.”
Borenstein added that once the quote process was complete the algorithm would have no ongoing access to the customer’s social media data.
Admiral’s firstcarquote was scheduled to launch this week, however, it was delayed due to undisclosed “issues”.
In a statement, the company said: “The launch of our firstcarquote trial has had to be delayed. We’ve been working closely with Facebook in Europe to get the service ready, and are now addressing a few outstanding issues. We hope that very soon we will be able to offer first-time drivers better deals on their car insurance”.
But under Facebook's platform policy, section 3.15 states the site's data should not be used to "make decisions about eligibility, including whether to approve or reject an application or how much interest to charge on a loan".
It's understood the two companies are still in talks about trying to revive the product.
Would you let your insurance company analyse your social media profiles for a cheaper policy? Let us know in the comments below