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Insurers Test Data Profiles to Identify Risky Clients

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Filed: Timeline

Life insurers are testing an intensely personal new use for the vast dossiers of data being amassed about Americans: predicting people's longevity.

Insurers have long used blood and urine tests to assess people's health—a costly process. Today, however, data-gathering companies have such extensive files on most U.S. consumers—online shopping details, catalog purchases, magazine subscriptions, leisure activities and information from social-networking sites—that some insurers are exploring whether data can reveal nearly as much about a person as a lab analysis of their bodily fluids.

In one of the biggest tests, the U.S. arm of British insurer Aviva PLC looked at 60,000 recent insurance applicants. It found that a new, "predictive modeling" system, based partly on consumer-marketing data, was "persuasive" in its ability to mimic traditional techniques.

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This data increasingly is gathered online, often with consumers only vaguely aware that separate bits of information about them are being collected and collated in ways that can be surprisingly revealing.

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A key part of the Aviva test, run by Deloitte Consulting LLP, was estimating a person's risk for illnesses such as high blood pressure and depression. Deloitte's models assume that many diseases relate to lifestyle factors such as exercise habits and fast-food diets.

This kind of analysis, proponents argue, could lower insurance costs and eliminate an off-putting aspect of the insurance sale for some people.

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Making the approach feasible is a trove of new information being assembled by giant data-collection firms. These companies sort details of online and offline purchases to help categorize people as runners or hikers, dieters or couch potatoes.

They scoop up public records such as hunting permits, boat registrations and property transfers. They run surveys designed to coax people to describe their lifestyles and health conditions.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704648604575620750998072986.html

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I am going to have to unlike Five Guys and list 'running' in my activities on Facebook.

Their French fries may one day be my downfall. I <3 the idea of using social network sites for data, people are always 100% honest there. If you can't trust a Facebook profile, what can you trust?


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