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Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies 353

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 drakaan ( 688386 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:21PM (#47408899) Homepage Journal

    Actually, as someone who is a pretty conservative driver, I welcomed the option to let worse drivers subsidize my premiums in exchange for them tracking my driving for a while. I could care less that they know (for example) that I always signal turns and lane changes and don't aggressively accelerate or stop. I could also care less that people who can't demonstrate the same behavior are seen as a higher risk and charged a higher premium.

    ...except you, of course, since you're on my \. frinds list and all...

  • 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 Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:25PM (#47408939) Journal

    I might be more conscious about that cost and decide to not eat any than if that cost were figured in and distributed among all users buffet-style.

    You assume that these companies would operate on objective and reasonable standards - that's so cute...

    No, really, it is. Remember when everyone said that butter was bad for you and you had to eat margarine instead? Now it's the other way 'round (or looking to go that way). So - how would you feel about having to pay for all those times you bought real butter all those years?

    Oh, even better - let's talk diets! Not like recommendations for those don't ever change from, say, the old four food groups to pyramid to tetrahedron, to... - oh, wait.

    No thanks - I prefer to not put my eating habits and health in the hands of some corporate asshats.

    Mind you, I'm 6' tall and weigh 170 lbs, and I play outdoors for fun. I also eat good food in moderation, but occasionally I love a big steak or a big ol' bowl of ice cream. This brings up another thing - no two people are alike. Some can wolf down a metric ton of crap food (I used to) with no ill effects, but you want them to be lumped in with a bunch of folks who gain 15 lbs just from the mere scent of caramel candy? Screw that.

  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:58PM (#47409189)
    Mandating insurance forces premiums _down_ because the pool of insured people becomes much bigger. By now most car insurances are near the lowest possible values - most car insurance companies are barely profitable. It's not yet true for health insurance, but it's already happening there.
  • by WhatHump ( 951645 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @03:03PM (#47409235)

    I agree...IF the insurance company publicly discloses what it deems is a "good" driver versus a "bad" driver (e.g., stays within xkm/h of the speed limit, makes % mistakes per month like failing to signal), and IF they provide me with every piece of data they collect so I can do my own verification. Otherwise, no way! If I can't audit it, I won't agree to it.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie