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Insurers turn to Facebook timelines to beat fraud

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By TIMOTHY SMIT, director and MEGAN BADENHORST, senior associate in the dispute resolution practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

Facebook, according to Statista, had 2.32 billion monthly active users by the fourth quarter of 2018. Thanks to Facebook, you can post videos, brag about your children, announce your new job or even moan about your former boss to people all over the world, instantly. Many people even have public profiles – meaning that they do not change their security settings to limit who can see what they post on Facebook – but do they know who’s watching?

The Guardian newspaper recently reported that William Owen wasn’t worried about who was looking at his profile. Mr Owen had come 7th out of 2,000 in a 10km race. Before that, he had signed up for a half marathon and posted a photograph of himself on top of Mount Snowdon. Who wouldn’t plaster that all over Facebook? His insurer certainly “liked” his photos because the 29-year-old had, a few months earlier, claimed to have suffered neck and back pain caused by whiplash after a car reversed into his vehicle at a garage. His insurer understandably didn’t think that they should have to pay his claim.

Insurance companies may use information found on a public Facebook profile. Yes, there is a right to privacy in s14 of the Constitution and it includes the right not to have your communication infringed but that right is not absolute. It is framed by subjective and objective expectations of privacy. When you click “I accept” on the standard terms and conditions on any social media platform you erode your own subjective expectation of privacy.

Facebook, for example, expressly state in their Terms of Service that they “Provide a personalised experience for you”. How? By analysing “the connections you make, the choices and settings you select, and what you share and do on and off our Products”. Your objective expectation of privacy requires the rest of society to recognise your expectation of privacy as being reasonable. So, if you are instagramming your dinners, tweeting your workout routine or vlogging about your online dating – society will assume that you aren’t a very private person.

Facebook aside, to what other apps do you give personal information? Did you check their Terms of Service? The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that several popular health apps share personal and health data with Facebook. Extreme Tech recounted a finding by WSJ that 11 of the 70 iOS apps it tested shared personal or health data with Facebook’s servers via Facebooks Analytics. These included apps that record heart rate data or even when a user was having her period.

Going back to insurance companies – are they allowed to use unlawfully obtained information? For example, information obtained by hacking? Surprisingly, the position is not completely clear.

In Harvey v Niland and Others, Harvey relied on Niland’s private Facebook posts to prove that Niland was secretly competing and violating his fiduciary duties to their joint business. Was the Facebook evidence admissible? Niland said it infringed his right to privacy and was obtained through the commission of an offence under s86(1) of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, No 25 of 2002 (Act). Judge Plasket held that the Act didn’t prohibit evidence obtained in contravention of s86(1) but reasoned that the admission of the evidence would depend

·       on the nature and extent of the violation of Niland’s right to privacy; and

·       whether Harvey could have obtained the evidence in another, lawful way.

Judge Plasket found that hacking Niland’s Facebook communications would have produced both information that was relevant to the issue before him and information that was irrelevant and entirely private. The relevant portion accessed established that Niland had been conducting himself in a duplicitous manner, contrary to the fiduciary duties he owed to the business – not to mention the fact that he had denied the allegations and undertaken not to do as he had done. Plasket said “his claim to privacy rings rather hollow.” Finally, the Judge found that the evidence was essential to Harvey’s case and could not in practice have been procured in another, lawful way. “All he had was a suspicion but, without [the hacked posts], he had no evidence of Niland’s wrongdoing.” The application to strike out the hacked posts was dismissed with costs.

Arguably, an insurer can also rely on unlawfully obtained evidence to defeat a fraudulent claim. A fraudulent claimant is obviously acting dishonestly and what if that is the only way the insurer can prove it? Bhekisisa reports that fraud, waste and abuse is costing the private healthcare system more than R22 billion. In 2018, it was reported by IOL that by rooting out fraudulent claims, Discovery Health saved R568 million for its client schemes in 2017, up from R405 million in 2016. Should the rest of us have to pay higher premiums because Jane Soap faked a knee injury and then used her pay-out to go skiing? Surely not.

It is an intriguing debate, but in the meantime, you might want to re-evaluate your online and in app activity and decide what sort of privacy you expect to enjoy.

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Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds

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Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/08/22/in-emerging-economies-smartphone-and-social-media-users-have-broader-social-networks.

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Nokia to be first with Android 10

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Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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