Listening to the radio yesterday, it wasn’t all that surprising to hear that the Conservatives were overlooking the selling of private data from NHS medical records to third parties. The Conservative government are aching to make money from any and all methods.
Not too long ago, I wrote about the issues that I had faced getting life insurance. A history of mental health issues means that I am unlikely candidate for life insurance and therefore, if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to help my partner pay for the house with anything other than the pittance in my savings account.
The reason why I bring up the mental health issue in regards to the selling of your medical data to third parties is because third parties can be advertising firms, betting companies, social media platforms, media companies and, of course, insurance companies. Advertising companies and betting firms are one thing – we can block these if we want to and not all of us are subjective when it comes to companies trying to sell us crap on the old interweb machine.
Insurance, however, has the ability to wreak havoc on our very lifestyles in a very real way. If a motor insurance company has your data and finds out that you have diabetes, they may reject your claim. Now, diabetes is already labelled on insurance questionnaires which already drives up premiums. But let’s say that the same insurance company also knows that you visited the hospital twice in the past six months because you had concerns regarding your insulin levels. You have just become a higher risk despite taking twice daily blood sugar checks and managing your diet. The insurance company doesn’t care. The data says you have visited hospital for concerns regarding your health. Your premium just went up. The car needed for work is suddenly unachievable because, on a tight budget, you cannot afford to drive to work.
Data was worth more in 2019 than oil. Your attention and how to gain it has an incredibly high price. Data regarding your health is a completely different ball-field. Algorithms can now predict your ailments before you know what they are yourself. If you have a loyalty card with Tesco and you suddenly have cravings for certain foods that are associated with pregnancy, the algorithms at Tesco can spot that trend and start advertising baby products. And then, bam. They know about it before you’ve even peed on a stick. You’re scratching your head and wondering why you are getting coupons or emails for reduced baby clothes…
Cambridge Analytica proudly promote themselves by claiming that they can sell things to social media users by using over 5000 pieces of information that they have acquired for every user whose data they examine. We know this to be possible. If insurance companies use this kind of algorithmic technology, it means that they could very well predict what ailments you may or may not have in the future depending on your medical records and those of your elders. You might never develop any hereditary diseases or illnesses but that doesn’t matter too much because the insurance companies are looking at probability, possibility, and risk. Health insurance, life insurance, travel insurance, car insurance, worker insurance – these are all now at risk and so is your very ability to purchase a new house, go on holiday or the opportunity to own a car.