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Insurance company wants our Big (personal) Data

Yesterday an article was published in a Dutch financial newspaper about Achmea, a big insurance company, willing to provide a discount to customers who share personal data. So interestingly, also insurance companies are trying to find new ways to employ big data. After a trip to Silicon Valley, Achmea gained the knowledge about a device that can be installed in your car and registers the driving behavior of the customer. In exchange for the information retrieved, the customer gets a discount on the insurance premium. Is this an acceptable exchange or not?

From the moment the device is installed in your car, it will register how fast you drive, break or accelerate and where and when you did it. The first purpose of the device in your car will be to help drivers avoid damage. The data will help the insurance company to inform their customers about where others have consistently caused damage. In the future, the TomTom for instance will be able to warn you in advance about a risky turn or garage that you are approaching. In addition, the information about your driving behavior can tell what risks the driver faces and hence the probability that the insurer has to compensate for any damage.


Achmea is very enthusiastic about this new idea, while critics are already expressing their worries about the privacy matters that come with it. First of all, it is not always clear what happens with the information that the companies will receive. Will the insurance company use the data against you in case you end up in a crash and they know everything about your driving behavior? Furthermore, some argue that this development will turn privacy from a right into a privilege. As long as you can afford to pay for your insurance without any discount, you do not have to share personal data. However, if the discount can be really convenient to you due to your financial situation, you have to give away a piece of your privacy.

Would you be willing to share data regarding your driving behavior? Is the benefit of a discount worth taking the risk of sharing personal data?


2015: Big brother is watching you

Through what kind of channel did you obtain your last purchase? Was it online or offline? It would be interesting to see what the percentages of online vs. offline purchases are. Some of us may favor online shopping because of the great amount of information available about your intended purchase. Others prefer going to a physical store for the service provided by a salesman.

Either way, it is obvious that some retailers have lost customers who switched to online shopping. So what can they do to increase profitability despite this loss? Surveillance cameras might be a step in the right direction.

Now when thinking of surveillance cameras, you most probably expect to read about crime. However, they have another valuable utility. Software enables to track people with the use of multiple surveillance cameras. Here is how it works. The cameras track a person, as he/she is moving around the store. The software breaks down the footage it obtains into components. These components consist of people’s characteristics such as hair color, height, color of their clothes etc. The information produced by the software provides retailers insights on where customers spend most time in the store and which products they are looking at. The software analytics are able to predict the probability of a person moving from one place in a store to another.

Software picks out people’s characteristics from surveillance video so it can track them across a store, from one camera to another. (MIT technology Review, 2015)

Software picks out people’s characteristics from one camera to another. (MIT technology Review, 2015)

The aforementioned results can be a valuable contribution to adjusting the real time in store experience of the customer. Retailers can improve the layout of the store, adapt their product offer, change the way employees provide service to customers and much more. By enhancing customer experience and better adapting to their needs, retailers are able to increase profitability.

As with most topics related to gathering customer data (online), privacy matters are addressed. We are already less in control online. Will this software be another infringement of our privacy? Maybe we simply have to accept the fact that the idea of privacy is transforming. The same way that many other things are, as technology is changing the world we live in.

Do you already feel ‘they’ are watching you? Or will you be more aware of the surveillance cameras now? Is this an acceptable marketing tool or do retailers know too much about you? Personally, I was not aware of this phenomenon, the trade off between privacy and convenience. Perhaps further transparency about this technology and the benefits and drawbacks might help acceptance, what do you think?