We continue to see evidence in insurance company claim files that insurers are not only conducting traditional surveillance, following their insureds/our clients around, but the insurers are using the internet to snoop around and learn as much as they can about claimants, their activities, their family members, etc.
We know the insurance companies do this to protect against fraud, and there is nothing wrong with that. But, all too often, the insurers get a bit overzealous, and even intrusive in their conduct, and they start to treat everyone like a criminal of some sort.
Perhaps the most shocking example of this activity we’re aware of, is a case of one major insurer accessing private files off of a claimant’s computer. It appears that the insurer may have actually hacked into its insured’s private computer to obtain information related to internet activities, e-bay purchases, YouTube viewing history and private files.
Such activity is, of course, illegal, and may give rise to, among other things, an invasion of privacy cause of action. We continue to remind our clients and anyone with insurance who may or may not ever make an insurance claim: do not take internet privacy for granted. While it is one thing for an insurance company or any other entity or individual to illegally access your private information, it IS legal for anyone to track your internet activities you put in the public sphere of cyberspace. Be mindful that what you post, blog about, advertise, or share on social networking sites, message boards, in online fora, etc. is fair game. Moreover, the reality is often that the picture one portrays of him or her self in cyberspace, may not be a complete picture of that person’s life. Unfortunately, when it comes to insurance claims, and particularly ERISA claims, such a picture may be the only one a court sees. Be mindful.