No Internet Snooping for Claims, Says Social Security Office

    May 4, 2012
    Drew Bowling
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A decree by the Social Security Administration has put the internet off-limits for disability-claims judges when ruling on cases. And by internet, Social Security means The Internet – all of it, most notably websites where people tend to share personal information, like Facebook or Google+.

According to the Washington Times, the decision rankled with some politicians, namely Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who responded by penning a letter that implores the agency to permit claims reviewers access to public information that people share on the internet. From the letter,

If an individual claims to be disabled, and then publicly posts a picture participating in a sport or physical activity on a social media website, such information should be used by [adjudicators] to determine if the claimant was truly disabled.

The decision to ban the internet as a source of investigating a fraud appears to stem from the agency’s desire to ensure that different government bodies don’t overstep their bounds or encroach into the jurisdiction of other investigators. Social Security has said that it’s not against using information picked up from the internet to demonstrate cases of fraud, but that such an activity should be left to the fraud investigators and not the judges.

“Adjudicators should do what they are trained to do — review voluminous files to determine eligibility for disability benefits,” said a spokesperson with Social Security. “Office of Inspector General fraud investigators should do what they are trained to do — vigorously follow up on any evidence of fraud.”

A similar claims case happened recently up in British Columbia, Canada, where a woman’s Facebook photos have been ordered to be disclosed as evidence in her lawsuit for her damages claim.

The Social Security office’s decision to prohibit judges from basing their rulings on evidence collected from the internet will most likely ruffle the feathers of some judges.

Do you agree with the Social Security Administration’s decision to prohibit judges, and thereby leaving investigations to the Inspector General, from considering stuff like Facebook pages and tweets when making a ruling on disability claims? Let us know down below.

  • Don

    This isn’t about “preventing snooping.” These judges are supposed to decide based on evidence presented at a hearing, the same as any judge. If a judge bases her decision on things outside of the record, it’s WRONG. Let’s say in a divorce case, a Judge decides to be Sherlock holmes and goes and spies on the mom taking care of her kids, and uses what she sees to decide against the mom without telling either party the real basis for her decision which is off the record evidence. B-a-d Judge! SSA made a perfectly appriate ruling here based on hundreds of years of law. These republican clones with their spying, privacy invading, extra-record, due process violating, civil liberties denying mentalities need to go back to school and learn about the constitution.