Insurance companies that use social media to obtain information on customers are being urged to get the data validated, as it is becoming harder to determine if the information is genuine.
Using customer research for marketing or investigatory purposes is a “well-worn path” but companies are coming unstuck by automatically assuming the information online is authentic.
“Information could have posted online malevolently, for example,” said Brett Webber, principal at technology firm, Sententia Discovery. “It is important to always bear in mind that anything online is circumstantial and needs to validate by other sources because if you don’t, you run the risk of using the wrong material.”
This comes as the debate around companies using ‘big data’ for their own intentions rages on.
Sententia Discovery provides tools to connect to different social media sites in order for clients to obtain more relevant information quickly.
“When clients want to collect material, instead of doing a browse, the same credentials are entered into one of our programme, gather the information and preserve it,” Webber explained. “It retains the information for later validation.”
But he stressed: “We do not do the background checks ourselves. How people use the information is up to them. If the information is challenged, we can show that is real and has not been tampered with. Simple screen dumps and screen printouts are no longer acceptable when there is an adversarial process involved like the courts.”
Sententia Discovery’s clients range from media companies to insurance claims management firms to investigators and demand for its services is growing.
“There is recognition in the industry that there is material that is particularly relevant to helping them understand their clients, both from a marketing perspective and a claims one.”
Relaying the feedback he has received from clients, Webber said insurance companies had uncovered instances of evidence of outright fraud, assumed identities, and people having false credentials.
“Social media is imperative to any approach to big data and the social sites are literally structured databases. However, the questions to ask are: How to do you get reliable and efficient information from those sites; and how you do make sure it is relevant?”