Wednesday, 23 December 2009

News: Insurance company Pulls Coverage Due to Facebook Pics

The things people post on Facebook have gotten them in trouble with spouses, their employers, the law (or not, as the case may be), and now their insurance companies. A 29-year-old Canada woman is now battling her insurance company, Manulife, after her sick leave benefits were revoked thanks to photos she posted on her Facebook page. She wasn't skipping out on work and she didn't even post a public update, but the company somehow managed to find her private photos and has decided to stop paying out.

Nathalie Blanchard took leave from her job at IBM a year and a half ago after being diagnosed with "major depression," according to CBC News. At that time, Manulife began paying out monthly sick leave checks as part of her benefit package—until Blanchard posted photos to her private Facebook profile depicting her having fun at her own birthday party.

The company apparently 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.

Whether Blanchard is, in fact, available to work remains an unanswered question to most of us—an answer that her doctor should determine, not us, and certainly not Manulife after seeing a few fun-looking photos. Blanchard even claims she was following her doctor's recommendation to go out and socialize, noting that she still has the same problems despite having a good time at the party. "I don't think for judging a mental state that Facebook is a very good tool," Blanchard's attorney Tom Lavin told CBC.

There's another disturbing aspect to this story aside from an insurance company taking action on what it seems to think is insurance fraud. Manulife confirmed that it does, in fact, use social networking sites to investigate clients, but Blanchard supposedly posted the photos to her very locked-down profile—she said she keeps it private to the world at large and only allows individually approved friends to see the things she posts.

If this is true, how did Manulife manage to get ahold of her photos, and should privately posted photos be considered open evidence in a situation like this? Of course, most people can access private photos posted to Facebook if they know the direct image URL—including photos that were
deleted from Facebook, as we learned earlier this year. Blanchard could have had a "friend" who decided to tip off Manulife with a few helpful links, reemphasizing the need for tight privacy controls. No matter how hard you lock down your Facebook profile, a friend (or an insurance company who knows who your friends are) can expose everything you post—private or not.

via arstechnica

1 comment:

  1. This is an all too common problem these days with people abusing the system to fake medical claims. There's somewhere between 5% and 30% abuse levels at most organizations with more than 50 employees - and the larger the company, the more the fraud exists because it is "easier" to hide.

    We've enlisted the assistance of private investigators like Star Quality Private Investigations to look into our employee claims and ensure that everything is above board and on the level.

    Any specialist that can do the legwork for you will help. If you're not sure which one to choose though I would highly recommend as they take your case very seriously and get you the answers you need ASAP.

    Best luck in 2010!


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