- Social media could put your home at risk of privacy and home invasion.
- Posting sensitive details on your or your children’s social media accounts may invalid your home insurance policy.
- Geo-tagging features are one of the main tools to avoid using online.
The dangers of social media. A controversial topic that has long stood as the center of many late-night debates, talk-shows, awareness programs, and a source of worry to many parents around the world.
While social media platforms enable us to connect with our beloved ones, several fears were raised and continue to rise on the possibilities of invasion of privacy, online hacking, stalking and stranger danger.
Many may think, “I am well aware of these dangers and have taken appropriate measures to safeguard against them.” But have you ever stopped to consider the possible risks of you and your children’s online activity on the security of your home, and insurance?
Home insurance policies have increasingly accounted for what policy-holders post on their social media accounts, thus possibly invalidating the policy and right to claim in the unfortunate occasions of burglary and theft. The questions of how, why and ways to avoid or reduce the chances of being at risk come to mind, which is what this article highlights.
What many fall short of realizing, is that posting on social media details of vacation and extended absence is the modern day counterpart of putting up a sign outside your residence saying “This house will be empty for a few days.” Such behavior would probably put your house at risk of burglary and even void a standing home insurance policy due to lack of adherence and protection from your end.
The question you have to ask yourself is how comfortable are you with volunteering private details of your life and plans to total strangers you meet on the street?
In 2016, the Emirati telecommunications provider, DU, launched the inaugural #PostWisely campaign, which encouraged social media users to be more responsible in what they post online. One of the commercials in the first campaign focused on a factually accurate story of a social media user whose social media profiles were monitored by thieves who waited for him to travel abroad before breaking into his home and stealing high- value items such as expensive watches, cars, and other things.
How Does this Affect Home Insurance?
In other parts of the world, such as the UK, US, and Australia, buildings, and contents insurance policies often contain clauses that obligate the policyholder to exercise reasonable care in their responsibility towards securing their home and not endangering their belongings. Traditionally, such a term was taken to mean ensuring that valuables are not on display, front and back doors are locked and secured, and an alarm system is installed and active when the home is empty.
With the advent of the age of social media, there has been something of a paradigm shift in the interpretation of the wording of this clause, and insurers use it as grounds to reject an increasing number of claims each year.
Informing potential thieves of your extended period of absence is increasingly construed by insurance companies as negligence on the part of the policyholder, as one can be found guilty of doing this by merely sharing images in real time of one’s holiday and/or other information related to travel plans!
Insurance companies are switching on to the fact that social media is a pervasive and powerful tool in claim investigations.
Upon examining the policy wording of several multinational insurance companies operating in the UAE, Aqeed has found that several of them, including AIG, used the policy wording that clearly articulates the policyholder’s duty to prevent loss or damage, stating:
“You and any other person to whom this insurance applies shall take all reasonable precautions to prevent accidents loss or damage.”
Current policies also outline “Loss or damage caused by your willful act” as an exclusion to several of the risks that you are being covered against. This wording is highly congruent with the text used in the territories that are seeing an increasing number of claims being refused due to social media posts.
KPMG’s 2016 General Insurance Industry Review presented the opinion that the “…insights that would be gained by integrating social media data with claims data…” was one of many opportunities that were easy to recognize in the context of untapped opportunities offered by big data. Among how social data might prove useful KPMG mused that “Claims could be reduced, liabilities more accurately assessed, and risks better monitored…” and that “The possibilities of using data are almost endless…”.
What Social Media Activities Put You at Risk?
It is essential to keep a watch on what your children are doing online, and whilst you may be aware of the dangers of posting your travel plans on the internet, it can be difficult for today’s children to see any risks beyond those they are prepared for in daily life, such as to be wary of strangers.
Most young social media users these days are quite savvy with privacy controls, but a lot are highly susceptible to the dopamine hit that they experience when getting a new follower, leaving the door open for strangers to be watching their social media accounts.
One of the many risks associated with social media platforms is centered around advertising your geographical movements. Utilizing applications’ location-tagging features in real time, for example, gives away your location instantly.
For example, Snapchat provides an option to users to continually broadcast their location called Snap Map. The more tech-savvy and privacy-conscious users of the app will disable this feature, others will limit it to their friends only, but a significant proportion of follower-hungry users see no issue in leaving the function turned on, as this will allow other users to view the content they share from locations on the map.
This is just one example; most social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn provide some form of a geo-tagging feature. This does only make you and your family susceptible to theft but may also be construed as negligence on your part of your duty to take all reasonable care to avoid loss, damage or theft.
5 Ways to Help Improve your Privacy Online
Naturally, there is a myriad of different articles and sources of information online that can help you to mitigate the risks of anything untoward happening as a result of you or your family’s posts on social media.
- Review your Privacy Settings: The major social media platforms all have extensive privacy settings: On Twitter, for example, you can click on Settings and Privacy and go to the section entitled Privacy & Safety:
On Snapchat, you can customize who can view your Snaps.
On LinkedIn, you can disable activity broadcasts that inform your whole network of every action you are taking.
On Facebook, you can set your profile to be private as well as stopping your Facebook page and posts from being indexed by search engines such as Google.
- Limit the Information you put online: Whether it is LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, avoid putting all your information online on social media profiles. The pros definitely do not outweigh the cons, the growth of what is known as social engineering means that any information you put online, such as your birth date, employment details, etc, gives potential hackers more information to use to build a profile of you that helps them to guess your passwords, secret answer and bypass other security measures.
- Review friends and followers: Having a scroll through your friends and followers and those on your children’s accounts on various platforms is essential, you should make an effort to cull, block or remove any profiles that look suspicious on every platform. If there are any social media accounts following you or your children whose identity you cannot verify, it is important to recognize that they should be blocked and removed.
- Keep an eye on your children’s social media profiles: The younger generation dubbed as “Generation Z” or the “Social Media Generation” tend to have multiple accounts on the same network; a ‘main’ account, which is usually heavily curated, whereas a ‘private’ account will feature more prolific posting. Additionally, some websites allow users to pose anonymous questions which are stored on a profile page, such as saraha.com or ask.fm. If, someone is building a profile of you and your travel habits online, then asking your children about holiday plans using these profiles is an easy way to find out when and how long you are traveling for.
- Study well your home insurance options: When purchasing your home insurance, take advantage of today’s online agents that have myriads of policies to show you. Agents such as Aqeed lets you compare, customize and buy covers from the biggest insurance providers in the UAE!