If only we could trust data available on social networks...
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23 March 2012
Some insurers are starting to launch e-reputation insurance products for individuals. Indeed, in France Swiss Life started to launch last year an insurance product targeting students about to start a professional career or any persons worrying about all data and information about them on the web. Very recently Axa France also launched a similar insurance product. While it's been a while that we have been speaking about how insurers can leverage social network data in claims or in underwriting, it seems some of them just apply the simple rule that consists in recognizing these types of data just represent a new business opportunity. With the importance taken by the notion of self-image and reputation in the public (not only the young one), I tend to think this is an interesting field to investigate. In the case of Swiss Life, the insurer uses a dedicated e-reputation agency called Reputation Squad and, for a bit less than €10 a month, the insured can action the insurer's e-reputation agency, who will try to put pressure on website or social network owners and ask them to erase data using the threat of a battery of juridical means. Of course, it's almost impossible to erase all kinds of data related to a person from sites and social networks on the net and it is here that the real issue appears. Actually if there are still data left after all the juridical measures have been triggered, the insurance service proposes to flood existing data with a massive positive information and data content about the insured. While I think there is certainly a need to fulfill when insurers propose specific juridical assistance to erase data about their insured from social networks and specific Internet websites, I think flooding the web with exclusively positive information about a person demonstrates how harmful open data on the web can be. It raises two simple but important questions for insurers: Can we trust information publicly available on social networks? If external sources - in our case here insurers in the frame of their obligation towards insured with regard to e-reputation insurance products but we can assume insurers are not and will not be the only external sources playing a role in here - start flooding the web with biased data about individuals, is it really a case to leverage social network data for claims and underwriting in the long run? Addressing these questions should be according to me the starting point of an evaluation to invest in technologies whose objectives are to leverage social network data.