Could your Facebook posts lower your insurance premium?

One insurer wants to sift through customers' social media profiles when setting prices - but Facebook says this breaches its guidelines...

Admiral, one of the UK's largest insurance companies, announced plans to use social media to analyse drivers' personalities before setting insurance premiums - however Facebook is set to block this scheme.

The insurer intended to examine new drivers' use of social media to determine their personality type, offering lower premiums to those who display online traits linked to safe driving.

"New drivers are often quoted much higher insurance premiums as they have little driving history, zero No Claims Bonus and are viewed as 'high risk.' But we want to help make sure safe drivers aren't penalised and get the best price possible. To do this, we'll look at your Facebook profile to help us get a better understanding of the type of driver you are," the company stated.

"There's a proven link between personality and how people drive, and our clever technology allows us to predict who is likely to be a safe driver," it continued.

However - a Facebook spokesperson has told Newstalk that these plans are against the social network's rules:

“Protecting the privacy of the people on Facebook is of utmost importance to us. We have clear guidelines that prevent information being obtained from Facebook from being used to make decisions about eligibility," the social network said.

"We have made sure anyone using this app is protected by our guidelines and that no Facebook user data is used to assess their eligibility. Facebook accounts will only be used for login and verification purposes," the spokesperson continued.

The site promoting the use of Facebook data to set quotes is still live.

An Admiral spokesperson has responded:

"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."

The Admiral programme focuses on users' post in the six months prior to seeking a quote.

For instance, The Guardian reports that those who display conscientious traits and seem well-organised would have been offered favorable rates - "These include writing in short concrete sentences, using lists, and arranging to meet friends at a set time and place, rather than just 'tonight,'" the paper states.

Meanwhile, the use of exclamation marks and words like "always" or "never" rather than "maybe" are seen as the behaviour of higher-risk drivers.

Dan Mines, who led the project, told the Manchester publication that users' privacy will not be compromised:

"It is incredibly transparent. If you don’t want to use it in a quote them you don’t have to ... It is a test, this is early days. The data will only ever provide a discount. We will work through that and learn more."

Yossi Borenstein, the data scientist behind the product says that the algorithm will be constantly changing as it analyses profiles:

"Our analysis is not based on any one specific model, but rather on thousands of different combinations of likes, words and phrases and is constantly changing with new evidence that we obtain from the data. As such our calculations reflect how drivers generally behave on social media, and how predictive that is, as opposed to fixed assumptions about what a safe driver may look like." 

He added that this approach has the potential to be "revolutionary" for insurance companies.