Survey: Risky Online Behavior Exposes Many to Lawsuits

February 16, 2010

Nearly 30 percent of people have cleaned up their social networking profiles for job interviews, and the economic downturn has made them more cautious about postings on social media sites.

A new telephone survey sponsored by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies reveals that more than one in four (27 percent) individuals say they have posted a comment on a news site or blog. One third of 18- to 34-year-olds have posted a comment on news sites or blogs. And 37 percent of those respondents making $100,000 or more have posted a comment.

The survey, which polled 1,000 Americans, shows that while some people are being cautious about putting personal information online, many are unaware of the liability exposures associated with posting comments to blogs or other Internet sites.

“A foolish post or a tweet could cost you a job or even trigger a libel lawsuit,” says Christie Alderman, vice president of Chubb & Son and new product and services manager with Chubb Personal Insurance. “We all should think twice before posting any comment online.”

The survey also asked respondents about obtaining permission to share copyrighted online materials. Sixty percent of respondents said they rarely or never obtain permission to cut and paste articles, other information or artwork from copyrighted Web sites before e-mailing them or printing them out and distributing them to others. One in four (25 percent) respondents said they always obtain permission.

Only 2 percent of respondents said they have lawyers review comments before posting them to their blogs.

“This raises significant risk issues for the owner of the blog,” says Alderman. “There are different schools of thought with regard to allowing comments to be posted directly to the site versus reviewing comments before they are posted. The safest and most conservative approach is to require pre-registration before allowing comments and to preview the comments before they appear online. This may not be practical for everyone, but there are other ways to protect yourself.”

Forty-five percent of the respondents were members of one of the following social networking sites: Facebook (37 percent), MySpace (19 percent), LinkedIn (9 percent) and Twitter (6 percent). Nearly 60 percent of respondents earning $100,000 or more belonged to one of these sites.

The telephone survey was conducted by Opinion Research Corp.

Source: Chubb Group of Insurance Cos.

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