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Archive for November 28th, 2009

Beware! Internet information can be used against you

Posted by Administrator on November 28, 2009

Facebook’s virtual reality has resulted in real-life consequences for several Kenyan university students. Photo/FILE

Facebook’s virtual reality has resulted in real-life consequences for several Kenyan university students. Photo/FILE

They may have begun as a fad, but social networking sites are now proving to be dangerous traps in which personal information offered in jest could be used against you. Recently, an employee of an American computer company uploaded information about herself that resulted in the loss of her health insurance coverage.

She had uploaded a photo of herself having fun while an insurance claim she had filed suggested she was facing difficult times and was on the verge of a major depression. The claim of Nathalie Blanchard, 29, that she was too depressed to work had resulted in her receiving regular disability cheques from her insurance company. But ever since she uploaded the pictures to her Facebook album, the insurance firm stopped sending the cheques.

Closer to home, Facebook’s virtual reality has resulted in real-life consequences for several Kenyan university students. Their status updates over a period of time led to their being expelled from their campuses. At Moi University, the postings landed a group of students at the students’ disciplinary council after the university suspected they had used Facebook to organise a campus strike.

Kenyatta University Students’ Organisation (Kusa) chairman Fredrick Kimaru was among those who fell victim to the electronic evidence on Facebook updates. In his expulsion letter the university administration quoted his Facebook postings stating, “you used Facebook to initiate a Jihad War against the institution”. Despite the fact that his punishment was later reduced to suspension for one academic year, the “Facebook evidence” was not deleted.

Enough evidence

But Ms Blanchard was not as lucky. According to her former provider, Manulife Insurance Company, her insurance was terminated “due to photos she posted on Facebook”. According to the insurance firm, the photos were sufficient evidence that she was not in a state of depression and was well enough to work.

The photos in question showed a happy Ms Blanchard at her birthday party, in a bar and on a vacation. On one occasion she appears in a photograph on a beach wearing only a black bikini, belying claims she had made to her insurers that she was ill and bedridden. Ms Blanchard has, however, sued the insurance company, and her lawyer Tom Lavin says that using Facebook as a basis for the insurance suspensions was inappropriate.

“It’s not as if somebody had a broken back, and there was a picture of them carrying a load of bricks,” Lavin said. “My client was diagnosed with a major depression. And there were pictures of her on Facebook in a party or having a good time. It could be that she was just trying to escape,” he told CBC news.

The woman has since been allegedly forced to sell her house after failing to make her mortgage payments. Erikson Sabwami, 33, told the Sunday Nation he was shocked to be asked questions related to postings he had made on Facebook during an interview with a prospective employer.

“They asked me what I thought about certain things, but my response apparently did not match what I had said on Facebook,” he said. A day before the interview, Mr Sabwami said his status message read “Old people in Kenya have no place in boardrooms or management positions. They should all retire and become chicken farmers”.

Day of the interview

He said the interviewer who asked him the question was well over 60. “It was as if he knew where he would catch me in a lie. That was the only question he asked me, and after my response he walked out of the boardroom,” Mr Sabwami said. The other interviewers later told him his answer was not consistent with some other information they had about him.

“Needless to say, they didn’t call me for subsequent interviews,” he said. He is convinced that the company had access to his Facebook profile.

Pass information

The Sunday Nation has established that many insurance firms in the country are active on social networking sites, including Facebook, and use the networks to pass information on to their clients and engage with them. Some of the insurance companies that can be accessed through Facebook include UAP, Kenya Re, Jubilee, Britak, Kenya Orient, Madison, Mercantile, Pacis, Apollo and Blue Shield.

Facebook privacy settings can enable you to block people from finding you in a Facebook search, see your profile or interact with you through other Facebook applications such as wall posts, pokes, messages and others. But this still will not prevent all communications and interactions in third-party applications and does not extend to elsewhere on the Internet. “Next time you accept that friend request, think twice. You never know, the information on your page may just be used against you,” Mr Sabwami warned.

Source: By NYAMBEGA GISESA-Daily Nation


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