Ars Technica yesterday ran a story about how a woman in Canada, suffering from severe depression, had her sick leave coverage pulled by her insurance company, Manulife, after seeing pictures of her at a party on facebook.
This kind of situation is nothing new; prospective employers today are known to look at facebook profiles ahead of interviewing candidates, so it is more than likely that insurance companies do the same. But this situation is very different – the lady in question, Nathalie Blanchard – posted pictures of her own birthday party on a private section of her facebook profile, i.e. only accessible to certain individuals. Her insurance company, according to the article, decided that “people diagnosed with depression are incapable of having fun for even short periods of time, because Manulife pulled Blanchard’s benefits with no notice. When she called to inquire about the checks, Manulife said she appeared to be “available to work” thanks to Facebook.”
The author of this post uses the same setup. Posted pictures are private, and only a handful of contacts can access them. So how did her insurance company, Manulife, get hold of these pictures? There are ways of accessing private pictures, even deleted pictures, but that’s another debate in itself. The worrying trend here is that companies, insurance companies in particular, are using social media to gather intelligence on its customers.
So, just to recap, as has been said and written over and over again – don’t upload pictures that you don’t want to be spread around. With reports of politicians, Commission officials, MEPs (and their assistants etc) using Twitter, facebook, and surely Flickr, there is a lesson to be learnt here. To use a term coined by the world’s number one spook agency, the ‘blowback’ that can result from pictures on social media networks can (will?) be much greater for a political figure compared to an ordinary citizen…
It’s simple really. Think before you post (and please, also, think before you tag).