The Big Data vs Big Brother showdown is set to gather momentum in 2013

What are the big themes for 2013? There is so much to talk about, from the Competition Commission’s inquiry into private motor, to client money handling for brokers, and how brokers and insurers will navigate the tough UK commercial market.

However, let’s discuss something completely different: Big Data. In the context of insurance, let’s call this the ability to harness vast amounts of customers’ personal information. It’s already here in the UK, for example with real-time credit checking, telematics and references to the electoral roll.

But it’s going to get a lot bigger, and a lot more sophisticated.

Third-party providers such as Experian, LexisNexis, Ordnance Survey and Creditcall will play a big role in advancing the concept and helping improve underwriting accuracy, busting fraud and, broadly speaking, creating a much fairer proposition for the customer.

Big Data is good, therefore, not bad. So why is the insurance industry so afraid to speak up on its behalf? Perhaps there are fears it could draw unwanted attention to the data protection debate. But if the industry doesn’t show a united front on this, it risks having the agenda snatched up by the mainstream media. Scary Big Brother-type stories are increasingly making the headlines.

Meanwhile, the ABI has a massive role to play, especially in its European lobbying. It has already got on the front foot with telematics. Debate will also be needed on how to interpret European and UK legislation. The Big Data vs Big Brother debate is only going to grow; it’s time to get talking.

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