The recent explosion of social media (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Foursquare, Tumblr, Linked-In, and many others whose numbers grow daily) is creating a number of risks for its users. Some of the perils of social media have already had extremely negative and well publicized consequences for the imprudent user.
These include loss of employment and employment opportunities, criminal charges, loss of all varieties of lawsuits, discovery sanctions, contempt findings, and on and on. These are just the beginning of the hazards that have been laid by the imprudent and often reckless social media practices of its users. The problems are likely to get worse, and certainly more frequent due to the continuing explosive growth of social media.
Just for a quick look at the numbers. Facebook claims in excess of 800 million users. Twitter is somewhere in the vicinity of 200 million. LinkedIn is growing rapidly topping 100 million. MySpace is in decline but still has a huge membership. Then there are new sites that seemingly pop up on a daily basis.
With each, people have often posted some level of private information, some of which can be quite useful in litigation or even just for sizing up potential associates, partners, employees or others in anticipation of a business (or personal) relationship. These uses should be common knowledge by now which suggests the question of why folks continue to post their most intimate, private and sometimes damaging thoughts, actions, behaviors, hobbies, activities, and so on to the world.
One interesting trend to watch is the use of social media by insurance companies. In fact, insurance companies were among the earliest adopters of the opportunities in social media. For instance, many personal injury lawsuits have been completely undermined by ill-advised Facebook posts such as pictures from ski vacations, frolicking on the beach, hiking, working in the yard and so on which make claims of incapacitating physical injuries from a car accident somewhat difficult to support.
The insurance industry is said to now be scouring social media to find indications of deceit on insurance applications. Such deceit may be a basis for denying coverage on claims. It also may form the basis for higher premiums. After all, those pictures of your partying, boozing, smoking, and sky-diving with your friends may put you in another life insurance premium bracket than the non-smoking, non-drinking, conservative you that filled out the application. There are other possible problems as well with such posts that will have already arisen and most certainly will continue at an escalating pace in the very near future.
Now for the bad news. If it is posted, you cannot get rid of it. It is there for eternity. Not only can‘t you fully delete these damaging posts, the attempt to delete them can result in very serious consequences too numerous and too complex to address here in closing. The bottom line is that your social media posts are permanent. As Joe Friday might caution, “anything you post can and will be used against you in a court of law” and by prosecutors, your employers, your insurer, your spouse (your ex-spouse), your kids, your neighbor, your dog, and anyone else that spots an opportunity to utilize your posts against you.
One last thing, check your privacy settings!!! Honestly, does this still need to be said?