Facebook decided yesterday that Admiral Insurance’s plan to check its young applicants’ social media feeds before accepting them as clients and setting their rates was a step too far. Although the insurer would only have acted with the customers’ consent, as confirmed in all of the reports, it isn’t going to happen.
Facebook decided that the idea of using its accounts to log onto the Admiral app and use an algorithm to determine suitability for discounts was intrusive. The app will now accept Facebook log-ins but will not go any further. The question remains, though: if Facebook can pull functionality like this on the day of a major launch, what else can it and other social media companies do?
Facebook is someone else’s playground
This is arguably another example of something we’ve discussed on these pages before. On that occasion we were talking about PayPal’s security breach and the risks of depending so exclusively on other people’s technology. This instance will be different as Facebook and Admiral had an agreement which will have been renegotiated.
However, it’s worth considering whether your own organisation has any dependency on a third party like this. Whether you verify clients or allow them to log into something using their social media profile (no matter which network) or do something more intensive with it, you might want to assume you’re on notice that at least one of the companies is going to look more carefully at the arrangements it enters from now on.
Sensitivity to its members’ privacy is a good thing and overall the move should be welcomed. Admiral may not feel the same after being forced to issue an app with less functionality than it wanted, particularly as the plan was to use data only with the customer’s permission.
It may be worth other companies doing anything similar checking those get-out clauses very carefully indeed.