Insurance companies are looking at new technology that will potentially allow them to price health and life insurance based on a photograph of the person who wants to take out the policy.
Life insurance and health insurance firms are purchasing facial analytical computer programs that will analyse a photo of your face and tell them if you are a smoker, have been ill or are likely to die young.
That information can then be used to decide whether they will offer you life insurance, what premiums you will pay and how much the insurer will pay out when you die.
What will a selfie say about you?
At present when you apply for life insurance you are asked a lengthy set of questions about your health. However, the onus is on you to be honest; insurers rarely check whether your answers are accurate, at least until after you make a claim.
But now insurers are looking into using facial analytics to make sure they get a true picture of your health and lifestyle. A selfie could be checked for fine lines around the mouth, which indicate you smoke, or a bulbous nose that can be a sign you are a heavy drinker.
Some scientists say the technology can go even further than that and predict your life expectancy just by studying your face. The theory is that if you are ageing prematurely then you may have a shorter life expectancy.
So early wrinkles could lead your insurer to decide you may die young and are therefore more likely to claim, pushing up your premiums.
A powerful tool
Two American insurers already use facial analytics as part of their pricing decisions and British firms are expected by some to follow suit.
“This is a revolution in technology,” scientist Jay Olshansky, who helped create the first facial analytics computer programme, Chronos, told the Daily Mail. “The face gives you clues into potential risks. When they’re added together with other data, they can become a very powerful tool for insurers.”
Olshansky also co-created the popular website Face My Age. You upload a photo of yourself, tell the website some personal details and it tells you if you look your age.
As more and more people have used the site, Olshansky and his co-creator Karl Ricanek have been able to refine their algorithm. They now say they can detect traces of mental conditions too, including long-term depression and early-onset dementia.
They confirmed to the New Yorker earlier this year that they have life insurance companies interested in their technology.
However, if my insurer tried to use my selfie to decide my premiums I’d protest – three different images filed to Face My Age all said I was 65.