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Actuarial Post: You better watch out, you better not cry…

Actuarial Post: You better watch out, you better not cry…

By Tom Murray, Head of Product Strategy, Exaxe.

Santa will shortly be departing from the North Pole with his sleigh laden with presents, and as each year passes, the sleigh contains an ever increasing amount of electronic gadgetry. This year his sleigh is expected to be weighed down with the new Microsoft offering – the Xbox One.

The Xbox one is highly futuristic with an ability to sense your presence in the room and welcome you back in. Voice recognition is also high on its capabilities and one begins to see how we could get to a stage where even our movements within our own home are monitorable, if not actually monitored, by external forces. As it is a multi-media station, not just a gaming console, our choices in terms of what we watch, what we surf and what we purchase on the Internet are all technically available to it.

Between the smartphones, which in effect are electronic tags that give away our movements outside the house and the Xbox One, which is starting to give away details of what’s happening inside the house, it seems that Santa is dramatically improving his information gathering so we can expect next year’s naughty and nice lists to be pretty accurate.

But it does beg the question of what is happening to all this data? Aside from being possibly trawled by security service in order to fight terrorism, what other use is it being put to? And should we really care?

The idea of being monitored inside our homes seems distasteful, at the very least, to most people, redolent as it is of the oppressive police state envisioned in George Orwell’s 1984. It is something we would take to the streets against if it was proposed by the government and yet here we are, not only bringing the monitoring systems into our lives but actually paying hundreds of pounds to do so.

So if we’re going to put up with this level of information being captured about our lives, purely for our own convenience as it enables the gadgets to personalise our experience, what should we do about the data captured?

This level of information about the choices and habits of a large segment of the population, freely given, would be of enormous use to statisticians and actuaries who are trying to identify future social trends.

However, instead of these people getting their hands on the data, it is primarily available to marketing departments of private organisations whose sole interest is to identify buying habits in order to increase their own profits. Not that this is a bad thing, it’s what lies at the heart of the liberal capitalist democracies. But given that the quality of information being gathered about citizens is about to take a huge leap forward, should this be made available to those whose job it is to forecast long term trends for society as well as those who are trying to work out what people will buy in six months’ time?

The financial services sector is one industry that has a legitimate use for the information. As the industry is there to provide protection for people and to give the opportunity to buy security for their future, the habits and choices made by the general population is very central to their ability to manage the risk involved in the provision of these products...

Read the full article in the Actuarial Post: Actuarial Post - Edition 32

Actuarial Post is an online publication offering actuaries insight into the market, an extensive library, news and the latest job listings. With a dedicated comment section; the most talked about topics in the actuarial market are discussed by actuaries dealing with the issues on a daily basis. Articles focus on the latest trends changes in regulation and the areas of pensions, investment, life and insurance.

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