In Social Media, You Are What You Post

Maintaining privacy is not easy these days, but national security document leaker Edward Snowden is here to help.

In a recent interview, Snowden warns those who really care about their privacy should quit using services like Dropbox, Facebook and Google because the information might not be as secure as you would like to believe. 

But really, you are better off assuming that anything you publish online is not private information.

Consider this . . . posting on social media is a form of publishing. You might think of publishing in the traditional sense, where the writing and editing processes require accuracy and thoughtfulness.

Personal social media publishing is often spontaneous and filterless. It lacks boundaries. In fact, you can tell the degree of personal boundaries – and vanity for that matter – by looking at their posts and pictures (selfies especially).

You probably already know that data mining companies are developing consumer profiles about you. They determine a person’s social media score based on what you post. The profiles and social media scores also influence the advertising you see while online. This should not be confused with social media scoring that communications professionals use to determine a person or organization’s social media influence.

To learn what one journalist found out about her self through the eyes of data miners, click here.

 _______________

“…your innocuous postings could
affect insurance availability and premiums…”­
_______________

You might even know that workers’ compensation and disability insurers use social media to identify claimant fraud. But social media scoring is different because it reveals how your behaviors affect the probability for future insurance claims. In concept, it is similar to a credit score.

That means your innocuous postings could affect insurance availability and premiums. When I discussed this on background with an industry expert, he told me that there are life insurers that do use social media sites to learn about future and current clients.

The goal of insurance companies is to judge the risk of the person they are covering so premiums are fair to everyone. We are used to life insurance companies, for example, checking our vitals and blood before writing coverage. What insurers have learned, however, is that social media can provide more relevant information to assign premiums.

For example, you could have great academic test results, but social media can reveal your true risk profile. If you engage in dangerous activities, such as motorcycle riding, that risky behavior tells the insurers you’re more likely to have an accident.

“Liking” fattening foods can also contribute to your social media score. Commenting too much on television programs could mean your lifestyle is too sedentary. Mentioning negative emotions, like being depressed, could point to significant mental health issues.

If the idea of insurance companies checking you out online seems to bristle against your assumption of a constitutional right to privacy, remember that once you have published information on social media, that information is fair game. Many experts warn that privacy controls are not always reliable.

But this can also work to your advantage. Liking cites that encourage diet and exercise implies your interest in living a healthier life. Posting a picture of your 100-year-old grandmother demonstrates longevity. Mentioning that you ran in a marathon will help your profile or posting a healthy recipe could improve your score. Showing a positive attitude about life could also reflect a healthy outlook on life and better coping skills.

To the degree insurers use this information, along with other traditional factors such as age, gender and marital status, is different for every insurer.

If you are really concerned about your data privacy, you might want to consider Snowden’s advice to avoid popular web services. Otherwise, remember the old adage, “you are what you eat?” In social media, you are what you post.

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