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Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies 353

Posted by Soulskill
from the beware-the-all-seeing-actuaries dept.
New submitter jbmartin6 writes: The Panopticon may be coming, but perhaps not how we think. Instead of a massive government surveillance program, we might end up subjected to ubiquitous monitoring to save on our insurance premiums. The "internet of things (you can't get away from)" makes this more and more possible. Here a company saved money on its health insurance premiums by distributing Fitbits and an online service to enable reporting fitness gains back to the insurance company. We've already seen the stories on using black boxes to monitor drivers. There is even an insurance company named Panoptic! Heck, why not a premium hike for owners of this or that "aggressiveness gene"? What if in the future we got a quick "+50 cents" tweet for every scoop of ice cream? I suppose the natural stopping point might be the balance between an individual's willingness to be monitored and the desire to reduce insurance premiums.
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Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies

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  • by GTRacer (234395) <gtracer308.yahoo@com> on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @01:50PM (#47408625) Homepage Journal
    Progressive's been offering Snapshot, an OBD-II dongle you plug in and allow to monitor your driving. They get the data periodically and can give you discounts for safe driving.

    Bet they can also up your rates for "normal" driving too!
    • by TWX (665546)
      I'm glad that my cars are pre-OBD-II.

      But really, it comes down to that they can raise your rates when they want to for any or no reason. The only thing stopping them is competition from others that want the same revenue source.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I'm glad that my cars are pre-OBD-II.

        Don't be. If it is ever decided that thou shalt be tracked, they will simply install Accelerometer/GPS-based black boxes in all of the vehicles, and your engine will be irrelevant. They'll know how you were driving, and when you were doing it.

        But really, it comes down to that they can raise your rates when they want to for any or no reason. The only thing stopping them is competition from others that want the same revenue source.

        Yep. Anything which is mandatory and not fully transparent is guaranteed to be a scam.

    • I always found the commercial for that ad very fitting. She's in a dark shady street corner and its parodying a black market dealer. I wonder if the advertiser had a sense of humor.

      That said, you should read TFS. "We've already seen the stories on using black boxes to monitor drivers" isn't an exact reference, but its the kind of behaviour they're referring to.

    • Progressive's been offering Snapshot, an OBD-II dongle you plug in and allow to monitor your driving. They get the data periodically and can give you discounts for safe driving.

      Bet they can also up your rates for "normal" driving too!

      My understanding is that they mail it to you... you drive around a bit and mail it back. Not quite the same thing.

    • Weapons Race (Score:5, Insightful)

      by coinreturn (617535) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:30PM (#47408971)
      Free Million Dollar Idea: Sell an OBD-II simulator that shows what nice, pleasant driver you are. Plug their dongle into that.
  • One can draw an analogy between this and supermarket club cards, where you *can* buy groceries without one, but, it is 25% more expensive.

    In this future, you can buy insurance without pervasive monitoring, but, it'll cost you extra.

    • by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @01:56PM (#47408673) Homepage

      It's the perfect libertarian excuse for corporate abuse. You don't have to go along with the abuse. You can just live like an Amish person and avoid the abuse if you really want to. It's all your "choice".

      • Actually, it is. If you have a better way of offering goods at a Supermarket, that doesn't collect information, and offer it up, I'm sure you'll make a small fortune.

        Libertarians don't complain, they create a market where others only see problems.

      • It's the perfect libertarian excuse for corporate abuse. You don't have to go along with the abuse. You can just live like an Amish person and avoid the abuse if you really want to. It's all your "choice".

        Says the guy that has no clue what Libertarians believe.

        It's about liberty... including liberty from business and even other citizens. Anyone that understood and followed libertarian ideals would want this sort of practice stopped.

        What you're talking about are anarchists.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        It's the perfect libertarian excuse for corporate abuse. You don't have to go along with the abuse. You can just live like an Amish person and avoid the abuse if you really want to. It's all your "choice".

        Well, to be fair, Libertarians also often suggest the dissolution of borders. Everything which was not necessary for the function of the minimally-sized government would be private property, and you could sell it to anyone you liked. But they'd be motivated not to move to certain places because they'd be exposed to prejudice; under such a system, you cannot be forced to trade with someone. It's a sort of choose-your-own-feudalism-adventure.

    • by TWX (665546)

      One can draw an analogy between this and supermarket club cards, where you *can* buy groceries without one, but, it is 25% more expensive.

      Yes, an I'm sure that Oliver Clozoff of 1060 W Addison St, Chicago appreciates all of the junk mail from Kroger and Safeway.

      • Funny indeed - it's drop-easy to fake out a supermarket club card.

        Driver's license details and SSN on the other hand? Well, not so easy to fake (unless you're an illegal alien, I guess).

        (I know, I know - in most states you don't have to update your DL info when you move, but in Oregon you're required to update your DL address within 30 days of moving, or you face a rather huge fine in addition to any other citations, should the cop discover that you haven't done so.)

        • They track you using your credit card. The cards are because people want them these days. Albertsons finally knuckled under and started offering them. Not because they needed them for tracking, like I said they already did that, but because customers whined they weren't getting a "good deal". So they raised their prices, and introduced a card.

    • "the internet of things" is a pretext for a panopticon

      One can draw an analogy between this and supermarket club cards

      sure "one" could do that, but "one" wouldn't benefit with any new understanding, **because that's a stupid comparison**

      i can "draw an analogy" to pissing in a jar, that doesn't mean anything

      you're giving everyone a free pass, and assuming the best of intentions on their part....when if you were using your analytical brain, you'd see that the past has taught us to assume the opposite: companie

  • Insurance companies shaping coverage/billing based on client data? Shocked, I say....

    Can you say red-lining?
    • by sycodon (149926)

      I can see it now.

      One day, after you stop in at the local Ice cream shop or fast food place, you get an email:

      You have consumed products that have been deemed harmful to your health. You premium has been temporarily increased by 1% for this month. Continuing these unhealthy practices can result in a permanent increase.

      Sincerely,

      Your local Obamacare Health Oversight and Accountability Administrator.
      A Healthy Citizen makes for a Healthy Nation.

      Have a Healthy Day!

      • by Cyberax (705495)
        Actually, this kind of stuff is NOT possible under Obamacare. Health insurance companies can't discriminate based on your medical history, the premium only depends on your location, age and smoking/non-smoking status.
  • without always using cliches like "panopticon". We'll take you more seriously, we'll assume you can think for yourself rather than just parroting something someone else said, and we might even read the article you linked to. Thanks.

    • by Artifakt (700173)

      How can "panopticon" possibly be a cliche, when it's a word that probably less than 5% of the general public has any idea what it even means? Just imagine a Letterman style 'Man in the Street' interview - Q: "Sir or mam, do you think America is becoming a Panopticon State?" A: "Um, WTF is that optical thingy you said?" If this has become a cliche, then your use of a phrase such as "think for yourself rather than just parroting something someone else said" has become so cliche that we should definitely ig

  • When we make soceity beholden to us, be become beholden to society. You can call it an unintended consequence, but no one with a brain can say it was an unforeseen consequence.
  • Nobody wants to pay for claims arising from behavior riskier than their own.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:15PM (#47408859) Journal

      But everyone wants to pay the rates of the healthiest, safest, best maintained because if you have to pay more than that you must be getting ripped off.

      Most people can't understand statistics or probabilities that extend past a single coin flip. Hedges, short and long positions, defensive financial tactics are way beyond your typical American who can barely balance a checkbook. Understanding that insurance is a combination of both - not gonna happen. The only dichotomy that people "understand" about insurance is that it is an evil expense due every month that gives them nothing in return, and a magical pixie horse that pays you money if something bad happens to you.

      • by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:28PM (#47408961)

        "a magical pixie horse that pays you money if something bad happens to you."

        Surely you meant "a loud annoying duck that pays you money if something bad happens to you, even though everyone ignores him."

  • Heck, why not a premium hike for owners of this or that "aggressiveness gene"? What if in the future we got a quick "+50 cents" tweet for every scoop of ice cream?

    ...and no more coffee for you today.

  • by distributing FitBits to employees.
    Did they also provide FitBit winders?

  • ...is that instead of "saving" you on premiums, it will only be used as an excuse to tack on more to your premiums.

    We already see this with credit ratings. Having trouble paying your bills, even though you pay your car insurance on time? Here's a nice 20% price hike to punish you.

    This is the way this always works, particularly with an industry that you are legally mandated to do business with.

    • Except that credit score is actually quite a good predictor of car insurance risk. Not saying that it's causal, but, overall, people who pay their bills on time also tend to drive more cautiously and get into fewer accidents.

  • That looks a bit too invasive to me - there is no way it could be compulsory in the current USA constitution and I bet there are far more 'bad' genetic tendencies than 'good' ones.

    But the fitbit stuff, I could see occurring - 10% reduction if you wear one 24/day and qualify. Not that different from what we do with cars today. Most importantly, unlike the DNA stuff, a fitbit monitor would theoretically encourage better behavior, which makes political sense, while dna mapping has tons of political issues.

  • Why not simply outlaw insurance companies attempting to cheat? Because this is basically what insurance companies are trying to do -- make a big play at getting something for nothing off their subscribers.

    Or when it comes to moral hazard, is there just one set of rules for us little people, and another for the corporations?

  • With enough data these companies can compile a "Safety Score", kind of like how a few companies know everything about your financial life and give you a credit score.

    Why wouldn't an apartment or condo community want to check your safety score? A lot of them do background checks and credit checks now, I can definitely imagine people wanting to live in communities where everyone has a safety score above some number. And I can imagine communities for the rejects. The more data companies compile on you the m
  • by nimbius (983462) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:25PM (#47408937) Homepage
    insurance companies are taking a page from social media and hedging their bets that you will concede to them monitoring your every waking movement. In most cases you arent told what exact amount you stand to save on insurance until after the metric is collected, and its usually very little (between 5-15%) You arent even told what metrics that little box is collecting or how theyre used, or how long theyre maintained. Most of the information they keep with these snooping devices becomes proprietary once you sign up. So why are you so ill informed about this?
    its largely because insurance companies are using the metrics to forecast profit and loss to their board and shareholders, not because they actually care about saving you money. In some cases signing up for a biometric program might quietly absolve the insurance company from having to treat you for a whole range of different ailments they attribute to a sedentary lifestyle, thus saving them in quarterly losses. The worst part is nobody is asking questions like 'does this fitbit factor into my HIPAA protection?' or 'can this vehicle data be used against me in a court of law?'

    full disclosure: im signing up for a workplace fitbit program subsidized by my employer. The data, presumably, is going to be aggregated from the devices and submitted to the health insurance company as "harmless biometrics" but as I cant sign up for my employers healthcare for another 7 months, I have no intention of using the device outside of the data i scrape from it in linux using fitbitd.
    • by dargaud (518470)
      So, is there a downside to hacking the data on those devices to make it look like you drive like a grandmother, just half a mile on sunday morning to church ?
  • The insurance industry has owned Washington for some time now. Naturally they would be able to get away with this kind of invasion of privacy with zero backlash. In 2010 the insurance industry started cashing in on their investment by pushing through the ACA bill, but that is only the start of it.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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