Wow I read a totally incredible post today about how your privacy might be in jeopardy yet again! In the past I’ve written Blog posts about how Home Inspectors are selling off your private information when they offer you those supposedly “Free” 90 Day Warranties and other worthless trinkets. Now it appears that an even more ominous threat to your privacy may well be in progress! A very long thread on a International Home Inspectors association bulletin board (BB) really did blow my mind! You can read the whole thread here but I will provide you specific items of importance.
A Home Inspection report generation software company has sold out to a very large insurance company that does cover homeowners insurance. This reporting software is used by a whole lot of Home Inspectors to create, write, store, and distribute your home inspection report. This thread is all about how that report software company is requiring Home Inspectors to insert a new clause in their pre-inspection agreement that you will be required to sign before they inspect the home you are buying or own. The clause is intended to protect the software vendor and insurance company from storing and manipulating your personal identifying information in the home inspection report. Further in the thread it appears that this “personal identifying information” is referring to your name and contact information but does not specifically state it does not includes information about the home being inspected. Many posters have then asked what is happening to the information in the report that is specific about the home?
There was a lot of speculation in the BB thread above and the speculation was believable but without real verification. However it appears that some verification may be present when two article links were posted. These two links are discussing data analytics and how data is being gathered about your home and auto by the insurance companies and are as follows. One of these links has since been removed from that thread.
Both of the articles above are in a very large and respected publication in the insurance industry. Personal data mining has always been an issue and hot button topic for those that knew it was occurring and opposed it. Unfortunately many consumers have no idea the depth of data mining that is taking place! In a previous Blog post I spoke about the CLUE Report that insurers gather about your home and Auto. Some are already aware of the auto insurers offering you lower rates if they can attach a monitoring device to your vehicle to watch your driving habits. Even though the consumer might not have fully realized this was part of the data mining process, they either opted into them (with the auto monitoring device) or had little choice when they made a claim on their home or auto insurance policy (the CLUE Report ).
But now with this purchase of the Home Inspection software reporting company is your data being mined without any awareness by you at all? That seems to be the major point of discussion in the BB thread noted above. Obviously the two articles noted above do not specifically state that this insurance company is mining data at a low level from the home inspection report. However many good questions were asked in the BB thread and the main one being what value is there in a huge insurance company buying a home inspection reporting software company, that creates and stores reports online, other than for the data in those reports? Obviously insurance companies, or their parent companies, are investing in many different areas in an effort to maximize profits. Yes I expect the Home Inspection software reporting company does make money off of their product. However is the money made off of a small profession that much to warrant such a huge investment by purchasing such a small software company?
At first glance it would look like this is just another odd purchase until you read the two articles above. Data mining is such a huge business since your data, whether it is your personal data or the data on the home, can generate large returns both from using it and selling it. This is already a reality with all those “Free” 90 Day Warranties your Home Inspector sells your private data to pay for and give to you. With those you start receiving the marketing calls for all types of junk the “Third Party Service Provider” is trying to sell you. At least with those operations you can see it coming and avoid it. However if the data in your inspection report is being mined well after the fact of you having the inspection then how can you see it coming and avoid that?
It really does make a person wonder then what is really going on with this software company purchase and how many of the concerns from the Inspectors in the BB post are actually valid? Can the insurance company data mine the home condition report and use the information about conditions found to deny you an insurance policy or significantly increase your premiums? What about any previous reports that might have been generated on that home you are buying from others who made offers before you but backed out? If significant items from those reports are not identified on your report you might not even know why you were denied coverage or your premiums skyrocketed? And there is yet another aspect now that the insurance company owns the software reporting company. How many past reports (prior to the current sale period) will be data mined and the information used to set rates for you and your home merely because your area was subject to recurring issues in homes? Or how about when you go to sell your home and the buyers start backing out because they have issues with obtaining insurance or reasonable cost insurance because of information in prior home inspection reports? The possibilities of the data mining usage are staggering!
It should be noted that this is only one of the multiple companies out there that sell/provide for free or near free software reporting packages to Home Inspectors that are utilizing online report generation, creation, and distribution from the software maker’s WEB servers. There is even one software package vendor that offers an online report writing and generation package they give away for free to Home Inspectors that get their clients to agree to handing over their private information and possibly agree to other use of their data and reports as well.
It does appear that the vast majority of Home Inspectors are using one of these various software packages to create and distribute your home inspection report. That leads to the question of just how many reporting software vendors are involved in this data mining of your personal information? Not only are you paying the Home Inspector for performing the inspection but you also seem to be paying them for the privilege of selling your personal information and making even more money off of you! What a sweet deal for these Home Inspectors.
So what can you do to help protect yourself from the potential of this occurring? An Insurance Adjuster in Missouri who was a former Home Inspector has a very good plan listed at the end of his Blog post about this possible issue. I do recommend you read his post and carefully read that last paragraph.
In Texas Home Inspectors are required by law to protect your privacy and are not allowed to distribute your information, including the inspection report, without your express approval. As a result from my first day as a Texas licensed Inspector almost 14 years ago I chose NEVER to use these online report generation or distribution services and to NEVER store your data and inspection report online anywhere! The potential for access to this information whether surreptitiously or through hacking of legitimate servers is very real and a major problem in our times. It really is sad when we as consumers must spend our 8 hours a day at work to make money to pay the bills and then spend another 8 hours a day at home performing CYA to make sure we are not taking advantage of. The worst part is not even knowing if things like this are occurring!
Be safe and fully vet your Home Inspector to make sure you are not being taken advantage of!!
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