Wednesday 7 December 2016

If it's public we can use it - Metlife on social media ethics

Insurer's tech chief says the key ethical question is whether an internet post is publicly viewable, writes Sarah McCabe

Published 31/01/2016 | 02:30

Last year saw two-high profile cases where claims were debunked from information claimants had posted on Facebook. Bloomberg
Last year saw two-high profile cases where claims were debunked from information claimants had posted on Facebook. Bloomberg

Internet users need to be aware of what they are posting online - because if it is publicly available, it's up for grabs by insurers, according to the head of technology for Metlife.

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In Dublin this week, Marty Lippert, the company's executive vice president for global technology and operations, said the insurance giant uses social media data to detect fraud in cases such as disability claims.

Metlife is one of the world's biggest insurers. It is a global provider of life insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management, and employs around 300 people in Ireland.

Lippert gave the example of a person claiming sick leave compensation, who was found by the insurer to be perfectly healthy based on a photo of himself skiing which he had posted to Instagram.

The key ethical question for the insurer, Lippert said, was whether the information was made publicly available.

"We do not pull in information that is not publicly available.

"That is the line. If it is publicly available we think it fits within the parameters of good ethical behaviour."

He did not clarify whether semi-private social media accounts - such as Facebook accounts which are viewable by friends but not the general public - are ethically viable sources of information for insurers.

The burden is on consumers both to tell the truth and to be aware of what they are posting online, Lippert added.

"Consumers have to be conscious that what they are putting out publicly is available to everyone.

"Our hope is that we don't find inconsistencies between what is being posted and what is being claimed."

The enhanced detection of fraudulent claims thanks to social media is having a downward effect on insurance premium prices for everyone, he added.

In Ireland, insurance fraud adds €50 to the cost of every motor policy. The overall cost of fraud is estimated at €200m.

Last year saw two-high profile cases where claims were debunked from information claimants had posted on Facebook.

A €60,000 court claim collapsed when waitress Rita Milinovic of Citywest, Dublin, who claimed to have suffered severe injuries from a car crash, was found to have posted pictures of herself on Facebook after climbing to the top of Bray Head, as well as shots of her posing at a body sculpture competition.

The judge in the case dismissed her claim and awarded costs against her.

Later last year, there was the case of David Ward and Lynsey Ivory of Clonshaugh, Dublin, who were involved in a staged accident in Donabate, Dublin, and claimed not to know each other.

Their posts on Facebook showed they were a couple. Ward was jailed for a year. Ivory, who is now his wife, was given a suspended sentence.

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