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NYC follows China: New York Life Insurers Can Now Evaluate Your Social Media Use

By 20 February, 2019September 25th, 2019No Comments

Your social media activity could affect your life insurance premium

Did you know that some life insurers can now monitor how you behave online as a way of assessing your health and bypassing more traditional medical tests?


The Wall Street Journal recently reported on newly introduced regulations, which allow New York insurers to use social media monitoring as long as they can prove they need it. The insurers must not discriminate on gender or racial background. Yet, such discrimination can sneak into even the most robust algorithms. For example, while no one can check your ethnic background, the algorithm may detect the types of content you are sharing and, if it correlates to users with a higher death rate, your risk profile increases. People with higher risk profiles may then be subject to a higher insurance premium, without further explanation.

NYC authorities say they will hold the insurers liable for such biased scenarios.

But how practical is that in reality?  How many thousands of American lawyers have a background in university statistics 101, which would allow them to discuss such future cases in court? Algorithms’ final weightings are often a “black box” even for its programmers. While social media based algorithms for financial loans and insurance are already common in China, mainly through mobile apps, no life insurers in the USA or Australia are known to be using such algorithms for life insurance premium assessments… yet.


The Wall Street Journal provides some tips for online actions that may help you avoid the social media medical exam:

  • Don’t post photos of yourself smoking on social-media sites
  • Do post photos of yourself running. Riskier sports, like skydiving, could complicate the situation.
  • Use fitness-tracking devices that indicate an interest in fitness.
  • Purchase food from online meal-preparation services that specialise in healthy choices.
  • Visit the gym with a phone linked to a location-tracking service. If you visit the bar, leave your phone at home.        

Interestingly, artificial intelligence (AI) experts also forecast the use of bots and other automation-based technologies that could help you best the insurance algorithms and give you the better life insurance discounts.. Is it the beginning of a counter bots war? It’s too early to know how millennials will combat the consequences of their digital footprint. It might just be the next fertile land for innovation.


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