Nathalie Blanchard had been out for a year-and-a-half on paid long-term sick (disability) leave following a diagnosis of severe depression. That is, until her insurance company, Manulife, got a gander at the pictures she’d posted to Facebook, which showed a smiling Nathalie at a Chippendales (male strip) bar, at a birthday party, and on vacation at the beach.
The 29-year-old Blanchard, who works for IBM in Quebec, complained that Manulife “[says] I’m available to work, because of Facebook.”
Blanchard expressed shock that the insurance company would take the photos that she posted to Facebook to mean that she is no longer depressed, and able to work. “In the moment I’m happy, but before and after I have the same problems,” says Blanchard, adding that she was simply following her doctor’s advice that she try to have fun.
In a written statement, insurer Manulife said that while it does use all resources at its disposal to determine whether a claim is valid or not, “We would not deny or terminate a valid claim solely based on information published on websites such as Facebook.”
Blanchard’s attorney has a different take on the matter. “I don’t think for judging a mental state that Facebook is a very good tool,” he said, going on to say that “It’s not as if somebody had a broken back and there was a picture of them carrying …a load of bricks. My client was diagnosed with a major depression. And there were pictures of her on Facebook, in a party or having a good time. It could be that she was just trying to escape.”
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Troubling though this instant situation is, more troubling is how Manulife found the Facebook pictures in the first placee. According to all accounts, Blanchard has the privacy settings on her Facebook account set to only allow her Facebook ‘friends’ to see her information and pictures.
We did some research into this, and discovered that even with the privacy settings set to “friends only”, certain pictures will still be public. For example, doing a Google search in “images” for Nathalie Blanchard turns up one of her Facebook pictures, with a link to Facebook:
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Clicking on that picture takes you directly to Blanchard’s public listing:
Now, of course, at this point, you can go no further without the account holder approving a friend request from you. But there’s still a fair amount of information to be gleaned even from the public listing.
Blanchard’s lawyer has said that he is requesting a re-evaluation of his client’s mental state, although being the center of negative media attention – not to mention losing “thousands of dollars” as Blanchard has said she has lost since Manulife revised her claim – is likely to put even the most Pollyannic of individuals into a funk.
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