Unethical Headline of the Day: KABC-TV, Los Angeles

The headline: “Are insurance companies spying on your Facebook page?”

Why it’s unethical:

1.     The device of asking a question that raises suspicion of wrongdoing when there is none and no indication that it is occurring is inherently unfair and unethical.

2.     The story never discusses “spying” at all. Examining the public area of a Facebook page—and that is all that is described in the article—is no more spying than reading this blog is spying.

3.     The story casts a business doing its job as the villains, and individuals who range from dishonest to foolish as victims. It is the other way around. The report explains that insurance companies are checking the Facebook pages of claimants for evidence of fraud, such as photographs showing supposedly disabled individuals engaging in strenuous physical activity. The only proper response to that is “Good!,” since the honest among us pay for widespread insurance fraud with higher premiums.

4.    The tone of the story shows how the news media participates actively in the demonization of business, feeding class warfare, encouraging political demogoguery and warping public perception. There are plenty of legitimate abuses perpetrated by insurance companies. Doing their due diligence by using Facebook information to detect insurance fraud is not one of them.

5.    Finally, the story approvingly ends with advice for aspiring frauds, from a boob, no less, who “hopes people are more careful and think before they post.”

Earlier in the story, he produced this classic of internet cluelessness:

“I was extremely surprised they could just go on your Facebook and pull these pictures out.”

3 thoughts on “Unethical Headline of the Day: KABC-TV, Los Angeles

  1. In the case described in the news story, there’s no inherent conflict between having a shoulder injury and relaxing at the beach. Relaxing is not a strenuous activity. It sounds like the insurance company was looking for an excuse to deny the claim.

    It’s not just people committing fraud who should be careful what they post because their insurance company may be watching. For example, it wouldn’t surprise me if some actuary found that people whose Facebook page features three or more shots of them holding an alcoholic beverage are more likely to get into accidents. It would make good business sense for insurance companies to use this information to set rates. But it would also make good sense for you to not post a lot of pictures of yourself drinking. As long as you don’t lie, there’s nothing wrong with presenting yourself well to people you’re doing business with.

    • I agree on all counts. Still, the headline wasn’t “Insurance company tries to weasel out of paying claims” because THAT wouldn’t be news. The method was used to get information that was misused; the story implied there was something unethical about the method.

      • And I, in turn, agree with everything you had to say about that. Insurance companies have long used investigators to spot fraud. The only thing new here is that they are getting pictures from the suspected cheater’s Facebook page instead of following him discretely and taking the pictures themselves.

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