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Insurers use satellite data

US insurance companies are using satellites to identify homes at high risk of fire damage because of their proximity to bush land – a development that alarms some state regulators and privacy advocates. For example First American Property and Casualty Insurance, uses satellite imagery to examine about 10 per cent of the properties it insures. Most of them are in areas of heavy bush in California, Nevada and Arizona.

But U.S. state regulators say the practice is a form of redlining – discriminating against particular neighborhoods – and could lead to policies being arbitrarily cancelled. Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi has called it a serious problem but said he does not have the legal right to stop it. In California particularly, more insurance companies have turned to technology to help with risk assessment after last year’s wildfires caused $US2.6 billion ($3.6 billion) in losses in the south of the state.