Update: Hancock advises us that the original Reuters story was incorrect – this has since been corrected. It is mandatory to join the Vitality program, but sharing of fitness data is optional.

Anyone with a life insurance policy from John Hancock – one of the largest insurers in the US – is now required to join the Vitality program, geared to encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

Those who choose to share fitness data from a device like an Apple Watch of Fitbit can earn rewards for doing so …

Vitality GO will be offered on all life insurance policies, at no additional cost. With this basic ‘be healthy’ version of the program, consumers will have access to expert fitness and nutritional resources and personalized health goals through an easy-to-use app and website. And as they reach key milestones, their healthy activities will be rewarded with discounts at major brand outlets.

Vitality PLUS: For $2.00 a month 5, customers will receive all the benefits of the John Hancock Vitality Program, including savings of up to 15 percent on annual premiums and valuable rewards for the everyday things they do to stay healthy, like exercising, eating well and getting regular checkups. Consumers can earn an Apple Watch for as little as $25 plus tax or receive a complimentary Fitbit device to make it easy to record their healthy activities. Today, we also announce additions to the program:

The firm announced the change today for new policies, with existing policies also adopting the requirement from next year.

Reuters reports that the company made the decision three years after first introducing the so-called ‘interactive’ policies optional.

The move by the 156-year-old insurer, owned by Canada’s Manulife, marks a major shift for the company, which unveiled its first interactive life insurance policy in 2015. It is now applying the model across all of its life coverage.

Interactive life insurance, pioneered by John Hancock’s partner the Vitality Group, is already well-established in South Africa and Britain and is becoming more widespread in the United States […]

The insurer will begin converting existing life insurance policies to Vitality in 2019.

Those sharing fitness data can earn rewards, such as gift cards for retail stores.

As Reuters notes, the move could have disturbing implications.

Privacy and consumer advocates have raised questions about whether insurers may eventually use data to select the most profitable customers, while hiking rates for those who do not participate.

The insurance industry says that the law means it can only hike premiums if it can show an increased risk, but it does raise the question of how far this type of approach could go. Will policyholders be penalised for walking through a sketchy area, logged by the GPS in their device? What about an activity tracker logging a strenuous hike as a risk factor? Or deciding that someone is cycling or skiing dangerously fast? This could be the beginning of an incredibly slippery slope.

What’s your view? Does it make sense to align policies to risk factors? Or is this all too big brother-ish? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Photo: TechRadar

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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