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Thinkpiece 112 - The digital panopticon

In our latest Thinkpiece, Chartered Insurance Practitioner Duncan Minty considers how the increase in insurers' knowledge about our everyday lives will impact the future of the industry and how this resembles the eighteenth century reformer Jeremy Bentham's idea of a 'panopticon'.   

Insurance is being transformed by the data it can now access about risks. New products and services will benefit consumers, but concerns have been raised about how all this data will be protected and interpreted.

All this 'big data' is providing insurers with unprecedented information about our lives. It resembles Jeremy Bentham's idea for a Panopticon, with consumers positioned around the ring and insurers watching us from the central observation tower.

Regulators see data as their biggest challenge, so the Financial Conduct Authority's recent report on pay-day lending is revealing. Their analysis of a billion pieces of data allowed them to set new pricing and lending rules.

Their approach resembles a 'tower within a tower', akin to the regulator sitting in its own observation tower within a ring of insurers, receiving streams of market and product data. A double Panopticon.

Is this a game changing move? Could the power of the Panopticon radically change market attitudes towards ethics, fairness and culture? And might consumer concerns about their personal data fall away, knowing that regulators are able to see everything insurers are doing with it?

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