First, insurance companies gave us black boxes to put in our cars so they could track our driving, in exchange for discounts when we refrain from speeding. Now, they're coming for our bodies.
The New York Times reports that John Hancock will be the first life insurance company that will offer discounts to Americans who agree to wear an activity tracker:
People who sign up will receive a free Fitbit monitor, which can be set to automatically upload activity levels to the insurer. The most active customers may earn a discount of up to 15 percent on their premiums, in addition to Amazon gift cards, half-price stays at Hyatt hotels and other perks.
Traditionally, life insurance companies have set their rates based on a customer's medical history and age, among other factors. But with the advent of fitness trackers, they can set rates in real-time, drawing on data about their customers' lifestyles. Andrew Thomas, a 51-year-old South African who has been sharing his activity with his insurer for years now, including his cholesterol level and exercise habits, tells the Times he gets "points" for good behavior, which translates into money back on his premiums. “Every Saturday morning, just for playing golf, I get points,” he told the Times. (He would probably get more points for a sport that requires serious exercise. For the sake of his premiums, let's hope he walks the course instead of driving a cart.)
Of course, wearable activity trackers don't just track when you play golf. They track any exercise that gets your body moving and your heart racing—and that, of course, includes sex.
A few years ago, a TechCrunch journalist wrote about how his Basis fitness band detected his sexual activity. Sex "has a bi-modal caloric burn distribution (i.e. lots of calorie burn at the beginning and end)," wrote Gregory Ferenstein. "[The data shows] I burned 100 calories between 1:07 to 2:00 am, without taking a single step, and fell asleep right afterwards." To prove the point, Ferenstein included the infographic from the night.
For the sexually active souls out there who don't mind an insurance company knowing how often they're getting lucky, the idea of activity-based discounts might sound pretty good. But before you sign up, know that it raises some eerie possibilities for data analysis.
For example, what if insurance companies combined your activity data with GPS location data to determine not just when you were likely having sex, but where you were having sex? Could a health insurance company identify a customer who was getting lucky in multiple locations per week, and give that person a higher medical risk profile, based on his or her alleged promiscuity?
That might seem like a far-fetched "Black Mirror" scenario, but in the era of connected fitness trackers and data-hungry insurance companies, not much will be off-limits. For those that want privacy—either from their insurance companies or their activity trackers–it's probably advisable to shed your Fitbit bands and Apple Watches before hitting the sheets.