Social Media: The New Surveillance


Ask Brad Culpepper what he thinks about appearing on the reality TV show, "Survivor: Blood vs. Water." Culpepper, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, is being sued by a California workers' compensation insurance company which is alleging he falsified claims about his disability while at the same time pursuing an active life as a mixed martial arts practitioner.

Culpepper was an NFL player from 1992 to 2000 as a defensive tackle. He also was the lead plaintiff in a concussion lawsuit filed against the NFL in 2012. After being examined by the insurance company appointed doctor, he entered into a settlement for $175,000, representing an 89 percent impairment. On history, he advised the insurance company that he had difficulties with activities of daily living such as performing normal work and recreational activities including difficulty driving, sleeping and sitting for more than two hours at a time. At the same time his activities as a mixed martial artist were chronicled on the website, B.A. Warrior Training Center, which lists Culpepper in its Black Belt Club, stating that, "You all worked hard to attain your black belts in kickboxing." Relative to his appearance on Survivor, he told the Tampa Bay Times after a 14-day stint that it was, "clean, old-school caveman stuff." After review of this evidence and other information, the insurance company has brought suit against Culpepper, alleging fraud.

For decades, employers in the workers' compensation setting have employed surveillance which has typically consisted of sending out a crew of investigators to conduct videotape surveillance of activity over a 48-hour period. Sometimes, a neighborhood canvas of activity was conducted which more often than not, only served to tip off the target of the investigation before it got underway. In today's world of surveillance, social media should often be the first source from which a comprehensive investigation is based. Lawyers and other stakeholders are being trained on how to track down altered or deleted web pages as well as gleaning private or personal information from search engines, blogs or discussion pages. A thorough review of social media sites has become a prerequisite for effective cross-examination.

A quick Google search of social media literally turns up dozens of sites, from the obvious such as Facebook, to the obscure. For example, Athlinks posts information about running and swimming. Blauk posts information from anyone who wants to tell something about a stranger or acquaintance. Daily Booth is a photo-blogging site where users upload a photo every day. You can imagine how important some of this information could be in defending a claim. Just ask Brad Culpepper.

By: Peter Harrison

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