We have shared several times in the past few years about the perils of social media for disability claimants. But the issue of how insurance companies are utilizing social media posts has taken a new turn, and there is reason to be concerned. Earlier this year, the New York State Department of Financial Services, the regulatory agency that supervises insurance companies among many other entities, began allowing life insurance companies to start using social media posts when evaluating and setting underwriting rates for individuals.
The new guidelines say that companies may use data from other “non-traditional” sources as well, although the information cannot discriminate against protected groups. But that means that anything and everything you post is available for use against you, and everything is also open to interpretation.
If you are tagged in a photo as you take a gentle and short walk along a flat train in the Rockies, that might be seen as an example of vigorous outdoor activity. If your soccer team posts a photo from a year end team dinner, they might think you are dangerous and impact your rates. Providing such latitude to these insurance companies seems dangerous.
We battle the disability insurance companies every day when they seek to disclaim over medical records that any intelligent person would swiftly conclude is hard evidence of a person’s severe illness or injury.
If a medical record can be manipulated, misinterpreted and mangled, so can a social media post.
New York State is the first state to set specific guidelines for how life insurers may use algorithms to comb through everything from homeowner records to credit scores and internet use to evaluate an insurance applicant’s risk, says The Wall Street Journal. A number of insurance companies are using automated programs to speed up the purchasing process, facilitate online-life insurance policies being issued and boost stagnant policy sales.
Because this is such a new area, regulators say they are attempting to establish ground rules before the information and this kind of system becomes more widespread.
Life insurance companies have long used algorithms and actuarial analysis to determine rates, but adding the online component is intended to improve the underwriting process.
Forbes notes that a decision in a New York case from 2010, an insurance company was told that it may not conduct “a fishing expedition” into someone’s Facebook account based on hoping there would be evidence, but our own experience has demonstrated that insurance companies are embracing the use of social media.
Our concern is that this will foster the use of social media on the claims side, with more client data being used to deny claims.
Remember that despite all of your best efforts, it is very hard to erase a digital footprint. If you must post, ask yourself if anything you are posting would put any disability claim you have at risk. Explain to friends and family that you do not want them to tag you in any photos. Be aware that once you have filed a claim, your social media is as available as your medical records.