In this review, I analyse how ‘behaviour-based personalisation’ in insurance – that is, insurers’ increased interest in tracking and manipulating insureds’ behaviour with, for instance, wearable devices – has been approached in recent social scientific literature. In the review, I focus on two streams of literature, critical data studies and the sociology of insurance, discussing the new (i.e. health and life) insurance schemes that utilise sensor-generated and digital data. The aim of this review is to compare these two approaches and to analyse what kinds of understandings, methodologies and theoretical perspectives they apply to so-called ‘behaviour-based insurance’. The critical data studies literature emphasises the exploitative aspects of these new technologies and mobilises behaviour-based insurance to exemplify the negative outcomes of digital health. Scholars from the field of the sociology of insurance empirically analyse the practices of behavioural-based personalisation and study how regulating and ‘doing’ insurance affect attempts to personalise it. I highlight the importance of approaching insurance as a specific financial technology and argue that more research is needed to understand the practices of developing behaviour-based insurance schemes and the insureds’ experiences.
In this article, we study how people define, negotiate, and perform autonomy in relation to digital technologies, specifically in connection with behavioral insurance policies that involve forms of data tracking and health services. The article builds on focus group discussions, which we treat as a dynamic site of ethico‐political deliberation to test ideas, talk about boundaries of acceptable control, and envision future scenarios. The ethico‐political deliberations assess the legitimacy and usability of new behavioral tools. Concern over the nature and limits of autonomy is activated when people discuss how wellbeing‐related decisions are delegated to algorithmically controlled systems. We argue for appreciating autonomy as a relational and ambiguous notion that is sensed and enacted in collaborations with devices in the form of distributed autonomy. Moreover, as reflected by the experiences of the insured, “autonomy” cannot be analyzed solely in the form transmitted by the liberal tradition; that is, as a clear‐cut entity that can simply be “had”, “exerted”, or “controlled”. Consequently, research, ethical considerations, and governance initiatives should pay attention to how values are “done” in the affect‐laden technologically mediated relations and practices.
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