Social networking sites are the newest way we communicate with our family, friends, and co-workers. The craze has caught on and nearly every generation is tweeting or posting status updates to their Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace pages. In fact, Facebook now has 750 million users worldwide. It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million people…Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months. So why does that matter to the injured worker?
It is important to keep in mind that what you say on the internet may come back to haunt you. Insurance defense firms and private investigators are beginning to monitor injured workers’ status updates and tweets. Some private investigators are even making up bogus Facebook profiles of attractive men or women to target injured employees with the hope that they will accept their friend request and essentially give them access to the injured workers’ daily activities.
I have already seen the seemingly innocent status updates from injured workers, who did not have privacy control settings in place, backfire on them in court.
Today, defense attorneys are attempting to use these updates and tweets against injured workers in court and in the doctor’s office. The term “social website surveillance” has emerged as yet another weapon in the insurance industry’s arsenal. In Canada, courts are beginning to order plaintiff’s private social website information, including pictures and status updates, to be produced and preserved in civil actions. I imagine the idea of requesting courts to authorize similar information, even when the information is not public, is not that far away for Georgia workers’ compensation case. The point is, be careful what you say on the internet. What happens on Facebook does not always stay on Facebook.
***Update – As of August 2011, The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation has ordered an injured worker’s home computer and Facebook account be made available to the attorneys for the insurance company. The decision was upheld by the Superior Court that reviewed the decision, and the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Georgia denied cert.