Social Media Use Could Affect Insurance Premiums

David Canton previously mentioned privacy concerns with status updates on social media. But these concerns could translate into higher premiums for homeowners as well, simply for using social media.

The Telegraph is predicting that premiums in the U.K. could be adjusted in the future to reflect the supposed inherent risk in participating on social media platforms,

Darren Black, the head of home insurance at Confused.com, said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if, as social media grow in popularity and more location-based applications come to fore, insurance providers consider these in their pricing of an individual’s risk. We could see rises of up to 10pc for people who use these sites.

“Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their information gathering, even using Google Earth and Streetview to plan their burglaries with military precision. Insurance providers are starting to take this into account when they are assessing claims and we may in future see insurers declining claims if they believe the customer was negligent.”

The article also provides some advice to mitigate some of these risks, including not posting home address or home phone on social media platforms, refusing invites from people you don’t know, and turning off location-based services.

This last feature is becoming increasingly popular with apps like UberTwitter, which automatically updates your specific location based on cell tower proximity, and platforms like BrightKite, used specifically for finding those close to you for spontaneous meet-ups.

I would argue that any such risks vary considerably between lawyers, depending on a wide variety of factors that could include other family members who remain in the home, friends who may be house-sitting, or even neighbours committed to lending a watchful eye. Social media use in itself should not automatically raise premiums, but insurance companies could take it into consideration, and possibly provide information and tips to consumers on how to make their privacy issues more secure and address any shortcomings from their personal situations.

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Comments

  1. It concerns me that social media is being looked at in such a “black-and-white” manner, and that people aren’t taking into account that (as brought up in the article) someone being “on vacation” does not mean their house is left empty. I tweeted about my trip to New York this Christmas, it was very evident I wasn’t home. What I didn’t mention was that I had a house sitter living in my place the entire time.

    While I agree that people using social media status updates should be careful about what they’re posting online, both from a safety and business standpoint, I think we need to define the lines drawn by (in this case) the insurance industry a bit more clearly.

  2. As a follow-up, the Globe has an article today about a new site, PleaseRobMe.com.
    It’s not actually intended to be used for criminal activity, but rather raise awareness about the security and privacy issues involved with social media.

  3. I guess the medium actually offers the solution to its own problem, at least in one sense: just as we install timers on our lights when we vacation to deter would-be thieves, it would be easy enough to create timed tweets to let people think that someone is home, or to lie and tweet, “Glad I’ve got that housesitter while we’re away!”

    Of course, this isn’t nearly as good as avoiding privacy-reducing practices in the first place, but then again, neither is simply turning the lights on and off at regular intervals!

  4. From the TimesOnline yesterday: Facebook posts could push up your insurance premiums,

    Insurers have warned householders against advertising holiday plans on social networking sites, as criminals are using them to identify targets.

    It comes as Google announced last week that its Street View service now covers many rural areas, not just urban centres, potentially helping thieves identify vulnerable homes.

  5. And seems the risks are not entirely unfounded:
    Indiana woman claims Facebook status update prompted robbery

    A woman from New Albany, Indiana says that one of her Facebook “friends” burglarized her house after she posted an update indicating that she and her fiancé would be out for the evening.
    …she is re-evaluating her Facebook friend list.