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IPFS News Link • Surveillance

Insurers Spy On Houses Via Aerial Imagery, Seeking Reasons To Cancel Coverage

•, by Tyler Durden

Insurance companies across the country are using satellites, drones, manned airplanes and even high-altitude balloons to spy on properties they cover with homeowners policies -- and using the findings to drop customers, often without giving any opportunity to address alleged shortcomings. 

"We've seen a dramatic increase across the country in reports from consumers who've been dropped by their insurers on the basis of an aerial image," United Policyholders executive director Amy Bach tell the Wall Street Journal. Reasons can range from shoddy roofing to yard clutter and undeclared trampolines.  

Much of this surveillance is done via the Geospatial Insurance Consortium, which boasts of its coverage of 99% of the US population.

In pitching its ability to provide high-resolution "imagery and insights" for property reviews, GIC says insurers can use the service to "review risk and exposure on a building such as proximity of vegetation to the structure, whether a roof needs updating, and verify the exact location for a policy." 

"If your roof is 20 years old and one hailstorm is going to take it off, you should pay more than somebody with a brand new roof," Allstate CEO Tom Willson told the Journal, unapologetically and ominously adding that, where the company's use of digital imagery is concerned, "there's even more to come." 

Wilson framed aerial spying as a pricing issue, but many consumers are finding that companies are using it to suddenly drop their coverage altogether. 

The Journal describes the experience of northern California resident Cindy Picos, who was dropped by CSAA Insurance last month, with the company saying aerial imagery revealed that her roof had aged beyond its life expectancy. She paid for an inspection of her own, which found the roof was good for another decade. CSAA wasn't impressed, and said its decision was final. The firm also refused to share its photos, though it now says it's changed that policy and will let customers see them -- if they ask.