Most of us leave traces of our everyday activities on the Internet, often without realising it. Internet chat, Facebook posts, calendar entries and photograph metadata are often available to contradict assertions about our whereabouts and lifestyle.
The defendant in Cirencester Friendly Society v Parkin went one further and had himself captured on film which was uploaded to YouTube. The result was enough to show that he had misrepresented the state of his health to an insurer, both at the time of policy inception and in relation to the claim.
The case comes to my attention thanks to barrister Gordon Exall who writes about it in his Civil Litigation Brief with the title Evidence, the Internet and social media: Facebook and YouTube expose defendant. Put as briefly as possible, Parkin claimed that he was too ill to work and received payment under the policy. He was a cannabis user, and the judge’s phrasing seemed to imply that Internet use is an addiction of the same kind. He says:
“Nemesis overtook Mr Parkin most dramatically because, like so many people nowadays, in particular those who seem minded to seek to perpetrate frauds, he seemed incapable of keeping off the Internet and sharing the true nature of his activities through social media”.
As one who spends most of every day on the internet, I am not sure I accept that there is a correlative link between that and fraud (as that “in particular” somehow implies), but it is certainly true that people seem happy to share their activities without much thought.
It appeared that Parkin “seems to have spent the greater part of the last 10 or 12 years refurbishing a Noble sports car and driving it, sometimes racing it”. How did the judge know this this? It was because of:
…facts being abundantly demonstrated by evidence which has been put before me in the form of witness statements, documents which have been obtained from the Internet and which have been downloaded and printed and, indeed, in some YouTube contributions showing the Noble sports car and its use,
There is nothing new about the use of this kind of evidence to prove someone a liar. In the old days, the evidence was gathered by men in shabby macs hiding in the rhododendrons with a long lens. These days, people save us the trouble of having to commission such investigations because they cheerfully publish the information themselves, perhaps assuming that insurers (to say nothing of judges) are unaware of the Internet’s treasure trove.