United Kingdom insurance company Admiral had planned to roll out its firstcarquote offering today.
The company will analyze the personality traits of first-time vehicle owners as to how they follow safe driving rules and their awareness to road safety through their Facebook accounts and their posts, comments.
For example, an entry that invited friends to meet up and included a specific time and location suggested a more organised individual who might therefore be less of a risk as a driver. Privacy groups have long warned about the potential for information shared on the social network to be misused, and now an insurance company is planning to make use of the status updates customers post to determine the type of drivers they are.
The voluntary service wouldn't have increased premiums, however. "If we find people aren't sharing their data, then we won't ever get to consider expanding firstcarquote".
He added: "Whether intentional or not, algorithms could perpetuate social biases that are based on race, gender, religion or sexuality". "Ultimately, this could change how people use social media, encouraging self-censorship in anticipation of future decisions", says ORG executive director Jim Killock.
"Young people may feel pushed into such schemes because of financial constraints", he said.
The pilot, which was due to launch today but has been delayed while Admiral addresses what it describes as "a few outstanding issues".
A spokesperson for Facebook said: "Protecting the privacy of the people on Facebook is of utmost importance to us". Facebook accounts will only be used for login and verification purposes.
There is also a case to be made that Admiral's efforts are legitimate while Facebook's decision to effectively strangle the service is self-serving, and a sign that the company does not so much wish to protect its users as to protect its exclusive access to the valuable information it receives from them. Admiral says it will only inspect Facebook posts, not photos, and correlate the personality profile against claims data to see if it is able to offer a lower insurance premium.
Instead, Admiral will now have to ask users of the app to answer a series of questions that will assess their eligibility for a discount instead.
"The technology uses social data personality assessments, matched to real claims data, to better understand first-time drivers and more accurately predict risk", said the firm.
"Following discussions with Facebook, the product is launching with reduced functionality, allowing first-time drivers to login using Facebook and share some information to secure a faster, simpler and discounted quote", an Admiral spokesperson told the Guardian. It has been interpreted as a demonstration of power from a company that itself is regularly criticised for its approach to user privacy.