Many folks (especially the young ones) have social media accounts these days, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the like. Grandmas use them to look at pictures of grandkids, college students use them to stay up on their friends, and many of us get our news from them.
While social media is, by nature, a way to share your interests with others, it is a good idea to protect yourself online. Here are some tips to help get you there:
DO make sure your privacy settings are set to "Friends Only". Without this, anyone can see and use your personal information without your knowledge.
DON'T accept friend requests from people you don't know. Fake accounts can be used to access and download your personal information.
DO consider how a post will look to others before you post it. Others may not understand inside jokes or context unless you provide it.
DON'T overshare. You have a First Amendment right to privacy, but it can be given away.
As lawyers, we have seen a growth in requests for information from social media websites by insurance companies and the defense lawyers they hire. Unless information is guarded, insurance companies can access material on social media websites and have used it against people making claims.
Sometimes the information gets taken out of context. For instance, in one case a young woman was hurt in a car wreck. Her favorite thing to do in the summertime before the wreck was tubing on the lake. She tried it once or twice after her wreck, but it aggravated her symptoms and she didn't do it any more after that. Sure enough, the insurance company found a picture online from the one time she went tubing after her wreck and tried to use it against her, even after the proper context was explained to them.
What you say or post can affect your claim, and some judges have ordered litigants to turn over information on social media sites even where the highest privacy settings were selected. So, especially for people involved in court cases, it is important to be selective about what you post.