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Cathy O'Neil

China Knows How to Take Away Your Health Insurance

A big Chinese insurer’s facial-recognition software offers a cautionary tale for the U.S.

Smile.

Smile.

Photographer: Ian Waldie/Getty Images

China’s largest insurer, Ping An, has apparently started employing artificial intelligence to identify untrustworthy and unprofitable customers. It offers a chilling example of what, if we’re not careful, the future could look like here in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Ping An is using facial recognition software to search for “micro-expressions” on people’s faces to help decide whether they’re being truthful, whether to insure them and presumably what the terms of service should be. Secondarily, the software will gauge people’s body-mass index and well-being to determine health insurance premiums (spoiler: it costs extra if you’re fat!).