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PCM, 4 October 2015: 'Privacy organisations vehemently oppose controversial Achmea plans'

"Privacy advocates do not have a good word to say about Achmea's plans to give insurance discounts in exchange for personal data. "Privacy discrimination" is called, and the plan would be a "dangerous development".

Privacy as a bargaining chip

Achmea's plans, as well as intiatives like ING's to sell customer data, ensure that "privacy becomes a bargaining chip", argue both Reinout Barth of PrivacyBarometer and Vincent Böhre of the Privacy First foundation.

Privacy discrimination

"Such a plan is privacy discrimination," says Böhre. "It ensures that someone's privacy is no longer taken for granted, but something that can be bought off. As a result, rich people and people who care about their privacy pay more for insurance than those who don't care."

That conclusion also supports Barth from PrivacyBarometer. "Privacy is going to cost money this way, while still remaining a right. Do you really want to make that a privilege for people who are willing or able to pay for it?"

Digital civil rights organisation Bits Of Freedom also writes that in a blog post. "Privacy is not dead, but it is becoming for the rich." BoF is not referring to the discount, but to the fact that Achmea is collecting the data for "a greater purpose".

Voluntary or not?

Both Barth and Böhre think it is positive that customers can make their own choice. "That is the only positive thing about the plan," says the former. Böhre agrees: "That it opt-in is good. But it should always be."


'Function creep'

All organisations also warn against 'function creep', a term meaning that something different happens to the data than originally intended.

This way, all data can be requested by the police or investigative agencies. Barth (PrivacyBarometer): "You get a box in your car because it gives you a discount, but later it turns out that the police also find that data useful for investigation purposes."

Changes in conditions

Moreover, anything can change in the insurer's terms and conditions in the future. It may, for example, decide at once that this data can now also be sold on, for example to advertisers.

"You didn't sign up for that then, but that data is kept for years so it may still be used."


Big data

Privacy advocates are not vehemently against big data, but not in its current form. Barth: "Big data is valuable if you don't apply it to the individual user. Then advise the government, for example, which areas are unsafe."

Not necessarily bad

Böhre is also not necessarily against Achmea's plan. However, there must be safeguards to this. "You obviously have to store the data encrypted," he says. "Privacy by design, so make sure anonymity is factored into the design of the system. And you will have to ensure that every employee who can access the data is thoroughly vetted."""

October 4, 2015.