Ethics at the New Frontiers of Finance


Martin Foo


6th edition (2016/2017)


Insurance / Technology

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“Ethics change with technology.”
Larry Niven, American science fiction writer

In 2011, the Court of Justice of the European Union (EU) ruled that European insurers must, after a short transitional period, no longer use a person’s gender as a factor in calculating insurance premiums (Court of Justice of the European Union, 2011). The ruling was roundly criticised for being likely to raise the cost of insurance for female drivers and incentivise riskier driving behaviour (HM Treasury, 2011), and even for trivialising the very concept of human rights (Booth, 2011). Equality between men and women is a bedrock principle of the EU. Indeed, Articles 21 and 23 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights require gender equality to be ensured in all areas. Why, then, should insurers be exempted from the most basic precepts of anti-discrimination policy? And, as private firms collect more and more data about our driving histories, medical records, and personal lives, what other protections might be needed to ensure equitable access to insurance coverage?

Deep beneath the North Atlantic Ocean lies the Hibernia Express, a 4,600km transatlantic cable system that connects Europe with North America. Completed in 2015 at a cost of US$300 million, the system lowers the latency of communication between traders in London and New York by 2.6 milliseconds (Buchanan, 2015).

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