Why Your Healthcare Underwriter Wants Your Mobile Data

As mobile devices get smarter and smarter, there is an ongoing debate about all the data they collect and how that data is used. (For those of you that love conspiracy theories, you’ll love my line of thinking today.)

For example, imagine that the application can predict where you will be 24 hours later to within 65 feet.

Your phone can give me a pretty good proxy for all of these:

  • How much do you sleep?
  • How much time are you in a car?
  • How much time do you spend sitting?
  • How much time are you walking? How far do you walk?
  • How social are you?
  • Are you in a relationship?

And, the more you do certain things, the better these proxies are:

And, in the not too distant future, it will become a digital wallet and begin to track purchase patterns.

Skeptical? In response to a request from Representative Ed Markey, major cell phone carriers revealed that they had received more than 1.3M requests for cell-phone tracking data from federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in 2011. (Time article – The Phone Knows All) They are using your phone data to solve crimes. If you’re not a criminal, this is probably good. It takes an average of 2 days for the Marshalls Service to find a fugitive these days versus 42 days in the past.

And, unless you’re a significant anomaly, you’re not reading all the data privacy data for all the apps we’re downloading. (30B apps have been downloaded.)

The article talks about apps that collect your photos, your texts, and your contacts.

“No app is free…you pay for them with your privacy.” (Time article)

But, from a healthcare perspective, especially as we move into an individual market, this data would be invaluable to an underwriter. Just like underwriters for car insurance want to track miles driven, average speed, and other data points, healthcare underwriters would love to understand your behavior.

Heck. We already see increased accidents attributed to people walking and interacting with their smart phone.

Maybe someday that will be a requirement to get a lower rate on healthcare. Maybe the younger generation won’t care. People continue to tell me that people in their 20’s just assume that everything is public and don’t see this “Big Brother” type of use of data as invasive.

The same Time issue (9/27/12) goes on to share some interesting global statistics on mobile phones. Here’s a few highlights:

  • 84% of people have their phone next to their bed (68%) or in the bedroom (16%) at night
  • 1/3rd of Americans use their mobile device while driving a car, playing with their children, attending a party, and eating at a restaurant.
  • 65% of parents believe their devices make them better parents (I’m not sure I get this one at all)
  • Americans use their mobile devices least of the six countries studied to do each of the following:
    • Send text messages
    • Browse the Internet
    • Listen to music
    • Search the web
    • Read news
    • Take pictures
    • Visit social networks
    • Shop
    • Receive payments
  • 29% said their wireless device is always the first and last thing they look at every day (which is 15 points below the international average)
  • 26% of respondents feel guilty if they don’t promptly respond to work related messages outside normal hours



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