Public social media records can be a powerful tool in evaluating the reputation, behavior, actions and history of either individuals or entities.
Social media screening providers are increasingly appointed by businesses to mitigate risks, identify fraudulent insurance claims and avoid undesirable associations.
With one of the highest social network penetration rates worldwide, the United States has 295 million users that frequent these social channels, equating to three-quarters of its population. The reasons behind carrying out social media reporting are increasingly apparent from the omnipresence of these platforms in our lives.
Conducting social media background screening is becoming an invaluable strategy for companies to thoroughly assess possible brand and reputation damage, confidentiality breaches or false claims.
So, what exactly is social media reporting, and who is it used by? The question of the legality of such a screening is also very important – and one of the main reasons corporations turn to professional social media screening services for help.
In this article, we answer the five most frequently asked questions about social media investigations.
Let’s dive in.
1. What Exactly is Social Media Reporting?
Social media reporting involves using online behavior evaluation to make an informed decision in a range of situations. Social media screening vendors use advanced technology, such as AI, and various search and analysis techniques to sift through publicly available data to unveil a myriad of information that can help minimize risk and maintain compliance.
Searching dozens of social media platforms, clients are presented with reports that can save businesses from a number of headaches, including inaccurate results and exhausting company resources.
2. Who Uses Social Media Reporting?
Businesses across a range of industries can benefit from social media reporting. However, while each company has its own requirements, they all share one thing in common – the likelihood that they lack the in-house expertise to conduct this type of screening at scale.
According to the CAIF (Coalition Against Insurance Fraud), fraudulent insurance claims total a minimum of $80 billion within the United States alone. Insurance companies rely on medical and physical tests, private investigators, and on-the-ground surveillance to verify or deny claims. While these methods are still widely used, social media screening has become a valuable tool in the “investigative toolbox” for the insurance and underwriting sector.
For example, one woman claimed that while vacationing abroad, she lost her wedding ring in the ocean. A simple social media search discovered various images of the claimant wearing that same wedding ring after the claim has been submitted.
Posts, images and videos serve as solid evidence, often resulting in the people making fraudulent claims to quickly confess to their behavior. Insurance companies can now be proactive and strategic in combatting fraudulent claims with social media reporting.
Much like the changing landscape of the insurance industry, private investigators no longer work under old-fashioned Sherlock Holmes-style circumstances. Instead, modern-day detectives and private investigators gather vital information and track communications to build their cases.
Legal teams can and often do the same. Using social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, they uncover crucial elements of their subjects' personal lives, interests, friends, associates and even past events they've attended.
For example, metadata includes a range of embedded information and provides pivotal evidence in that it reveals a timestamp of the moment images in question were taken, the equipment used and where it was taken.
The metadata gathered in a social media screening will remain, no matter whether suspects attempt to delete their photos. Metadata is important because it is both discoverable and court admissible.
According to one New York Court,
"While certainly metadata is discoverable to determine if and when documents may have been altered, that is not the only reason for production. General information about the creation of a document, including who authored a document and when it was created, is pedigree information often important for purposes of determining admissibility at trial.”
Something that could potentially completely alter the outcome of the case in question.
Risk management has never been as crucial as it is now. This is because the risks that companies face today are more complex than ever before. One of the most relevant examples is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit businesses worldwide.
Finding themselves in a sink or swim situation, company executives had to make quick decisions based on the facts they had at hand to battle the ever-evolving existential threat to their organizations, customer relations, the safety of their employees and their corporate reputations.
Due to the constant spread of misinformation found online, particularly at the time, countless companies were overwhelmed, the wrong decisions were made, and many found themselves unable to keep their heads above water.
With the help of social media reporting, businesses, both big and small, have access to real-time and accurate data that will save them in the short run and reap long-term rewards.
Another popular industry that uses social media background reporting is HR. When employers check a potential candidate's profiles, they look for information regarding their job qualifications, their online professional persona, whether there are negative comments regarding the candidate in question and any viable reasons not to follow through with the hire.
A range of findings could deter employers from hiring a candidate. These include:
- Inappropriate information, images, or videos
- Drug use
- Falsifying their qualifications
- Sharing confidential information regarding their previous professional roles
- Spreading negative comments regarding a previous employer
- Lying about any absences
- Comments discriminating against race, religion, gender, and other issues
On the other hand, a professional social media report can also convince an employer to hire a candidate based on the information found within their profiles. This can include anything supporting their qualifications, professional image, awards, and other users posting positive references regarding the candidate's professionalism and character.
3. Is it Legal to do Social Media Background Screening?
While social media screening is an appealing option for companies to make the right decisions, there are grey areas in terms of legality. Liabilities are aplenty, especially when it comes to hiring decisions.
For starters, privacy laws limit an employer's access to non-public information. When going through data found on social media platforms themselves, employers are exposed to various information, including gender, sexual orientation, marital status, ethnicity, and disability.
Although not intentional, hiring decisions can be made based on one or more of these factors, opening up the possibility for legal action. So, while social media background screening is legal, it has to be done correctly, which is why so many businesses look to outsource solutions and avoid legal repercussions.
4.Do you Hack People's Accounts?
Hacking or "friending" people to complete a social media report is entirely off the table. The team at Social Discovery complies with legal regulations such as the FCRA. We only investigate the publicly available data.
5. Can I do the Research In-House?
The short answer is you can, but you absolutely shouldn't.
Not only will you waste precious resources such as time, manpower, and money, but there is the ever-present risk of opening the door to lawsuits.
By outsourcing social media screening, you are protecting yourself from legal implications, implicit bias, false positives, and subjective reports.
Businesses across various industries, including insurance, HR and private investigation, are increasingly starting to leverage social media screening as one of their key investigative tools. For those who are still unfamiliar with the benefits of this investigative tool, we hope this article has answered some key questions.
As a veteran in the social media screening space, Social Discovery prides itself on building a robust search platform paired with the knowledge and expertise of trained analysts, which equates to Accurate Intelligence.
To learn more about how we can help your business with a social media search, sign up to receive a free report and schedule a demo with one of our representatives.