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Facebook forces Welsh insurer to abandon discount plan

Facebook forces Welsh insurer to abandon discount plan

November 3, 2016
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Source: Shutterstock

Yesterday, I wrote about Admiral, a Welsh insurance company which planned to use its clients’ Facebook data to determine risk and offer them discounts. The new service, called firstcarquote, was launched yesterday. Unfortunately, within hours after the launch, it was shut down. The reason: Facebook refused to allow the app to access people’s posts.

Why doesn’t Facebook want you to pay less for your car insurance?

Admiral’s firstcarquote is intended for new drivers, for those people with no driver history. It uses your Facebook data to understand your personality and see how much of a risk you are behind the wheel. Depending on what the service finds out about you, you can get a hefty discount, of up to 15%. It is a lot, especially if you take into account that we’re talking about new, inexperienced drivers.

So why would Facebook be against people saving money? The social media giant announced that it can’t allow the app access to its customers’ data due to privacy concerns. In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said that privacy is “of utmost importance” to the company.

Facebook blocked Admiral’s app, preventing it from gaining access to its customers’ data. The move shouldn’t come as a surprise. Facebook’s business model is based on getting as much information about their users as possible, and using that information for themselves, by offering targeted advertising to other parties.

What about Admiral?

Right now, there’s no reason to believe that Admiral’s intentions were anything but good. The Welsh company was offering new drivers a chance to get cheaper insurance. All they had to give in return was data from their Facebook pages, data which included the posts made by the user in the previous six months.

That type of data is at least partially public, since you share your posts at least with your friends. And that’s only if you don’t want to have a public profile. But many people do have public profiles and their posts are out there for everyone to see. So was the block really necessary?

Is the social media giant doing the right thing?

The thing about Admiral’s new service is that it wasn’t mandatory. You had a choice, either use it or not. If you did choose to use it, the app would just take a look at your info and then send you a quote, which you could compare to those offered by other companies. At least in theory, it’s an easy way to get cheaper insurance.

There’s no reason to believe that Admiral would have stolen private information, or that it would have used that information for anything except risk assessment. Their business is insurance. And just like any other business, they need clients. And those clients need to be happy and to trust their insurer.

One may say that Facebook is being overprotective. But no one can deny the fact that the social media giant has itself been playing with privacy and its users data. Facebook does not allow people to create fake profiles. It does not allow people to offer false information about themselves. Because the company makes money out of accurate user info. It sells your data to advertisers who afterwards bomb your profile with their ads. So Facebook is actually making money off of you.

Had Admiral gone to the social media giant to propose a deal, a situation where it would pay for the info, Facebook probably would have accepted. So, the only conclusion is that Facebook blocked the Welsh insurer just because it wanted its cut.

It’s interesting to see how this story will develop. Your Facebook profile should belong to you, not to Facebook. You should be allowed to do with it what you please. Credit card companies don’t stop their customers from buying things they can’t afford, so why does Facebook get to decide what you do with your information?!

Gary Morgan

Gary Morgan is a Britain transplant. Finance background, enjoys tea, politics and soccer (or football for everyone across the pond). Get in touch with him via email

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