Ethical Use of Social Media Can Help Investigations


Michael Parker speaks at the North Texas International Association of Special Investigation Units (IASIU) Spring Fraud Seminar in Grapevine on May 9, 2018May 10, 2018, Grapevine, TX - Scrolling through social media multiple times per day has become the norm for most people in today’s society. Social media has proven to be a valuable tool for people and businesses alike, but especially for those using it as a form of investigation, such as insurance adjustors, paralegals, and more. However, there are important legal and ethical boundaries to consider when using social media as an investigative tool. Michael Parker dove into these social media dos and don’ts at the North Texas International Association of Special Investigation Units (IASIU) Spring Fraud Seminar in Grapevine on May 9, 2018.

Parker, managing partner at Parker Straus, LLP, returned as a presenter to the biennial seminar amongst other attorneys and insurance and special investigation units (SIU) professionals. As an experienced SIU investigator and attorney, Parker provided a unique perspective on ethical social media research of a party in a lawsuit and discussed the following key points to remember in doing so.

  • Social media content viewable to the public qualifies as a legitimate source of evidence.
  • Private social media content is private.
  • Becoming Facebook “friends” or LinkedIn “connections” with the person of interest to view their private social media content is unethical.
  • Enlisting others to seek access to the private social media content of the person of interest is unethical.
  • Viewing public social media content is a cost-efficient way of investigating claims.
  • Just because there are no laws or codes restricting the use of social media as an investigative tool, does not mean there are no ethics.

Parker said that since social media content qualifies as evidence, adjustors should request the preservation of it in their spoliation letter to the claimant. Parker reminded his audience that they must strive to conduct business fairly with their clients, insurance companies, and the public, as outlined in the Texas Public Insurance Adjustor Code of Ethics.

Another aspect of ethical considerations addressed in Parker’s course targeted cybersecurity and protected health information. While most people do their best to handle client’s information in an ethical fashion, others are not as respectful. Enter the dark web—where protected health information such as social security numbers, date of birth, and compromised computers are sold daily. With the increasing popularity of the online currency, bitcoin, cyber fraud schemes have become rampant, testing the waters of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Parker discussed the cyber security and defense solutions that have been implemented as a result of the rise in data breaches and fraudulent activity using the internet. Thanks to innovative technology security companies, such as Barracuda Networks, and the United States cyber security severity scale, detecting and responding to these cyber threats is possible and will help prevent future incidents.

If you have additional questions about ethical social media practices and cyber security, or are interested in presentation opportunities on this topic, please consult the experienced legal counsel of Parker Straus, LLP at (888) 557-3311.