Businesses are using more personal data to develop and target marketing campaigns than ever before. This use of personal information has become a significant part of the insurance industry and as such, personal data has become a major influence in pricing structures for insurance policies.
According to ProPublica, medical devices such as CPAP machines and heart monitors aren't storing information privately and in some cases, personal data is shared or sold with other healthcare providers and insurance companies. Are consumers willing to sell their personal data in exchange for reduced health insurance premiums? Expertise polled consumers to see how far the general public will go for a great deal on insurance, and the results are surprising.
While most aren't willing to let insurance companies and other agencies freely access personal health data and other information, there are significant differences in how much Boomers are willing to share when compared to younger generations, such as Gen Z. Below, we dig into the data to uncover and hypothesize generational differences in opinion when it comes to privacy and personal data.
Health & Life Insurance Companies' Use of Technology to Collect Policyholder Data
When it comes to monitoring personal health and wellness, just how much is the average consumer willing to give up? As it stands, insurance companies, including John Hancock, provide fitness tracker discounts. This allows policyholders purchase trackers from companies like FitBit and Garmin at discounted rates and offering further discounts on their health insurance policies if they share their fitness data. Other companies across North America provide policyholders with discounts for taking part in other healthy activities, including scheduling colonoscopies, using meditation apps to reduce stress, and selecting healthier groceries. While discount programs vary with each insurer, most provide lower premiums or one-time discounts for logging these healthy activities.
Medical records are often fully accessible to insurance companies. Although the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits health insurance providers from using your DNA profile against you when pricing policies, those rules don't apply to long-term care insurance, disability insurance, or life insurance providers.
While most current practices are minimally invasive regarding personal data, consumers may eventually wonder how much further this practice could go. How would the average consumer feel about sharing pharmacy records with their health insurance provider? Could consumers eventually allow insurance companies to install cameras in their homes to monitor cooking, eating, and physical activities?
Although sharing this information could result in deeper discounts on insurance, and even the development of more personalized policies, they come with their fair share of risks. Before agreeing to share private data with insurance companies, or any parties for that matter, it's worth asking who will handle your personal information and how they will handle it.
Opinions on Personal Health Data Sharing
In this poll, we asked Expertise readers of varying ages to answer several questions about sharing private health and wellness information with insurance companies.
The first question asks how respondents feel about insurance companies installing cameras in their homes to monitor everyday activities. Of those who provided a clear yes or no response:
33.07% of Gen Z respondents aged 18 to 24 said yes
20.33% of Millennial respondents aged 25 to 34 said yes
28.66% of young Gen X respondents aged 35 to 44 said yes
20.14% of older Gen X respondents aged 45 to 54 said yes
4.40% of Boomer respondents aged 55 and older said yes
The second question in this poll asks respondents if they'd be okay with their health insurance companies having them wear a biometric tracker, such as a FitBit, to monitor their health and fitness data in exchange for reduced premiums. Of those who provided a yes or no answer:
45.53% of Gen Z respondents said yes
46.63% of Millennial respondents said yes
49.19% of younger Gen X respondents said yes
51.13% of older Gen X respondents said yes
23.43% of Boomer respondents said yes
In asking whether respondents would feel comfortable allowing insurance companies to access their DNA profiles if it meant they may qualify for lower premiums, Boomers again were the least likely to be ok with it. Of those who answered this question:
41.18% of Gen Z respondents said yes
32.78% of Millennial respondents yes
36.79% of younger Gen X respondents yes
35.15% of older Gen X respondents yes
16.56% of Boomer respondents yes
The last question Expertise asked respondents about health and wellness data was in regard to insurance companies monitoring prescriptions and adherence to medical advice. Of those who provided a yes or no answer:
54.10% of Gen Z respondents said yes
41.44% of Millennial respondents said yes
44.08% of younger Gen X respondents said yes
38.93% of older Gen X respondents said yes
26.11% of Boomer respondents said yes
Car and Home Insurance Companies' Using Private Data to Monitor Driving Habits
Drivers and homeowners often become subject to scrutinous underwriting processes when purchasing insurance for their automobiles and homes. But what if insurance companies went beyond looking at your history and continued to monitor your habits both in the car and at home after you purchased a policy? Furthermore, what if they used the data they obtained to adjust your premiums as they saw fit?
These practices are happening across the country, with car insurance providers using in-vehicle trackers to monitor driving habits, such as speeds and distance traveled. At home, some insurance providers offer discounts to homeowners who use smart automation devices, such as Nest thermostats and video doorbells. Some even provide their policyholders with flood sensors, carbon monoxide detectors, and other risk-mitigating smart devices by detecting and alerting homeowners to common issues. Currently, insurance providers don't monitor these devices and simply put them in place to help homeowners reduce their chances of needing to file a claim. However, sharing private data from these smart devices can become a real possibility in the near future.
Just as with sharing personal health data, it's important to consider the risks and benefits of offering insurers access to smart devices in your home or vehicle. Again, it's important to know who will have access to your information, how it will be handled, and most importantly, how it will be secured.
Opinions on Personal Vehicle and Smart Device Data Sharing
The second part of Expertise's poll focused on sharing private data from vehicles and in-home smart devices.
The first question asked whether respondents would be ok with their insurance provider installing tracking devices on their vehicles to monitor driving activity and safety in exchange for potentially lower insurance rates. The differences of opinion regarding driver safety monitoring were far less significant than for health and wellness monitoring. While a little more than 40% Gen Z, millennial, and Boomer respondents were willing to share this data with insurance companies, more than half of Gen X respondents said they'd be ok with it. Of those who provided a yes or no answer:
41.60% of Gen Z respondents said yes
43.25% of Millennial respondents said yes
50.80% of younger Gen X respondents said yes
51.54% of older Gen X respondents said yes
43.26% of Boomer respondents said yes
The second question in this category asked if respondents would be ok with an insurance company monitoring in-home smart devices and safety equipment in exchange for a lower-cost policy. In response to this question, Boomers were the least willing to share personal data from inside their homes with insurance companies. Of those who provided an answer to this question:
47.54% of Gen Z respondents said yes
44.38% of millennial respondents said yes
46.23% of young Gen X respondents said yes
41.99% of older Gen X respondents said yes
25.84% of Boomer respondents said yes
Insurance Companies Analyzing Consumer Behaviors to Determine Rates and Eligibility
In the third portion of Expertise's poll, respondents considered how they felt about insurance providers potentially using consumer data, such as shopping activity and purchases. Currently, life insurance providers use everything from medical records to your social media pages to underwrite policies and determine an applicant's eligibility. Meanwhile, some health insurers have formed partnerships with grocery chains to provide discounts to their policyholders when they purchase healthier foods.
In the future, insurance companies could take these practices further and began monitoring their customers' purchases. While many consumers might find this potential practice invasive, it's important to keep in mind how commonplace having your consumer activity monitored actually is. Businesses consistently monitor and track their users' social media and web searches to provide them with enough information to potentially interested consumers with targeted advertising campaigns. Before considering whether you'd consent to an insurance provider monitoring your shopping activity, it's important to ask yourself if it's actually that different from what's already happening with your consumer data.
Opinions on Sharing Buying Habits and Social Media Activity
The first question Expertise asked on this topic was about insurance companies monitoring shopping activity and purchases, such as gym memberships, groceries, and Amazon purchases. Of those asked, Gen Z respondents were most willing to share this information while Boomers were most often against it. When asked if they'd be ok with insurance companies monitoring this activity:
44.36% of Gen Z respondents said yes
27.62% of Millennial respondents said yes
36.49% of young Gen X respondents said yes
28.25% of older Gen X respondents said yes
15.94% of Boomer respondents said yes
The second question in this section of Expertise's poll pertained to insurance companies monitoring Internet and social media activity to potentially provide policyholders with discounted rates. Again, Boomers were the most uncomfortable with sharing this personal data. Of those who provided an answer:
31.20% of Gen Z respondents said yes
19.45% of Millennials said yes
31.51% of young Gen X respondents said yes
18.18% of older Gen X respondents said yes
9.49% of Boomer respondents said yes
Monitoring Pets' Private Data To Provide Lower Pet Insurance Rates
The last part of Expertise's survey focused on sharing pets' private information with insurance companies in exchange for reduced pet insurance premiums. Pet trackers can be worn on your pet's collar and use GPS, radio, or cellular technology to track location and activity. These tools intend to keep track of pets who wander or become lost, helping families determine the pet's location quickly. If insurance companies were to collect data from these devices, or furthermore, collect information about pets' eating habits, how would consumers feel?
Opinions on Sharing Pets' Personal Data
When asked if they'd be OK with an insurance company tracking pets' activity and eating habits to potentially receive lower rates, Gen Z respondents were most comfortable with it while again, Boomers were the least willing to share data. Of those who provided a response:
53.97% of Gen Z respondents said yes
41.14% of Millennial respondents said yes
49.67% of young Gen X respondents said yes
48.15% of older Gen X respondents said yes
26.03% of Boomer respondents said yes
Willingness To Share Personal Data Depends With Each Generation
Businesses collecting our personal information has long predated today's technology. For decades, groceries stores and other retail businesses have collected phone numbers and zip codes during the check-out process, and the digital era makes gathering and sharing information easier than ever for businesses. However, this practice also poses a risk to consumers, causing clear concerns for those asked to share private information with insurance providers and other companies.
Overall, the majority of consumers polled by Expertise expressed levels of discomfort with sharing private data with their insurance companies. That being said, Gen Z respondents, or those in the 18 to 24 age range, typically feel the most comfortable sharing their personal information while Boomers, or those aged 55 and up, feel the least comfortable. Millennials and Gen Xers tend to feel more comfortable than Boomers, too, with Gen X'ers showing a higher level of comfort than Millennials in most cases. Overall, all generations expressed concern with both marketing agencies and insurance companies accessing personal data, whether the purpose was targeted advertising or to determine insurance policy eligibility and pricing.
Note: This survey was the result of consumers selling their own personal data. Respondents were paid money in exchange for their responses and personal information.
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