Paris Hilton might have seemed an unlikely topic at the International Association of Investigation Units annual conference, but her recent legal troubles served as a perfect topic for the workshop, "All that Twitters: A Cyber Guide for Insurance Fraud Investigators and their Attorneys."
Ms. Hilton was recently arrested for possession of cocaine found in her purse and she had the perfect Paris defense: "That's not my purse, that's my friends's purse."
However, three weeks before, she sent out a tweet on Twitter telling the whole world that she had just purchased that exact purse.
Social networking provides a radically transparent Internet experience where nothing is confidential and it's this kind of valuable public information that is readily available to insurance fraud investigators for no cost; and since Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and You Tube host public information they are legal to search.
First there was "surveillance" or "observe from above" as in Big Brother where we were constantly being watched by video cameras in business and increasingly in public areas. Then came "sousveillance" or "observe from below" such as we have seen in Tunisia and Egypt where the people are observing the actions of the people in power and using video to overthrow governments.
Now we have "panopticon" "or observing all" through social media. We are all willing participants in the observation or surveillance of ourselves by anyone with a desire to see into our personal lives.
Consider the case of an individual who claims excessive medical costs and loss of income following an auto accident. A quick scan of social media sites could easily turn up photos, comments and even videos of that recent fabulous ski weekend or comments on Linkedin about how successful business has been recently. It's that kind of information that could easily damage the outcome of a claim and even result in fraud charges.
The only contraints on the investigators using the social media content is that it has to be obtained through ethical means that do not override privacy settings and the information needs to be verified.
Social media popularity has also become apparent as a tool in the management, investigation and disposition of workers' compensation claims as well. Over the last several years there has been an explosion in the use of this technology and is resulting in procedural and ethical ramifications for the workers' compensation community as well as prosecutions.
And finally, Internet searches by employers are widespread. Already 35 percent of employers have reported that they have rejected potential employees based on an investigation that turned up provocative data or photos found on social media sites.
So the answer is simple; if you wouldn't want your Grandmother to see it....Don't Post It!!!