Social data's distinct details can enhance authentication

Register now

Social media has proven to be extremely valuable in authenticating users, especially where a dearth of conventional data exists.

By combining social media profile information with other trusted online and offline data, companies can verify consumer identities for millennials and others who are generally outside of traditional credit-based systems.

But the rules can be complicated. Admiral, one of Britain’s biggest insurers, wants to scan first-time car owners’ Facebook posts to set insurance prices. The problem? Facebook won’t let them.

The news, which raises intriguing questions about the future of social data as a digital authentication identifier, came in a storm last week. On Tuesday, The Guardian reported that Admiral’s new program, firstcarquote, would be opt-in, and seek only to offer lower rates to potential customers whose Facebook posts showed signs of, among other data, “short concrete sentences . . . lists, and arranging to meet friends at a set time and place.” The shrewd analysis of social data could be a win-win for companies and customers alike.

But the launch was delayed at the “last minute.” As Facebook explained in a statement, firstcarquote effectively violated section 3.15 of its Platform Policy. While Admiral would be allowed to use Facebook accounts for potential customers’ login and identity verification, it would not be able to scan their post data to offer discounts.

How the Admiral-Facebook contention will play out remains unknown. But even Admiral admitted that although it could not predict the future of firstcarquote, it viewed the app as a stepping-stone to an increasingly sophisticated use of social data as an authentication tool – which saves customers money, and keeps their identities safe and secure.

Like most social networks, Facebook’s Terms of Service state, “You own all of the content and information you post,” and they are merely licensing it on a royalty-free basis (for their monetization). The question, then, is about the extent to which this use can be extended. If my social media data enables me to get better insurance, or qualify for a loan, or simply verify that I am who I say I am, why can’t I authorize its use by a party of my choosing? If I own my data on the platform and license it's use to Admiral, how can the platform legally deny Admiral's request?

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.