Search rightsnet
Search options

Where

Benefit

Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction

From

to

Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Decision making and appeals  →  Thread

Facebook checks

 < 1 2 3 4 > 

past caring
forum member

Welfare Rights Adviser - Southwark Law Centre, Peckham

Send message

Total Posts: 922

Joined: 25 February 2014

Pete C - 05 November 2015 05:12 PM
bexber - 02 November 2015 11:55 AM

For an ESA appeal the DM had included a screenshot from a historic webpage where my client had posted his mobile number in respect of arranging sports matches. Out of context, no dates included. Beware…

Its not just Facebook or websites, it may be something completely outside the control of the client.

I had a client who was a keen golfer who had claimed that he was unable to walk. A member of the Tribunal who is also a keen golfer looked up the client on a website showing the results of a recent tournament at a local club -  it was clearly shown that the client had played two rounds on a very steep and hilly course in the recent past. The allegation was, I am pleased to say, properly put to the client and I then asked for an adjournment to discuss the allegation. The client conceded that it was in fact true. He insisted we finish the appeal but needless to say he lost.

I must admit that I was mortified that he hadn’t told me and that I didn’t have the nous to check for myself!

 

A little surprised this one has passed with so little comment…

Leaving aside the actual merits of the case, this seems to me unacceptable - to my mind it’s the supposedly independent judiciary effectively trawling for unfavourable evidence and acting as prosecution. It seems to me that regardless of whether the evidence/allegation is put to the appellant, this goes beyond the scenario where the appellant says they can walk no further than between specified location A and specified location B and a tribunal uses googlemaps or somesuch to establish the distance between the two points.

On a slightly lighter note (well, perhaps not!!) - I only recently twigged that Facebook ‘friend suggestions’ are generated not just by your already existing friends but also when someone has searched for and viewed your Facebook profile. A little unsettling when these suggestions are for your more mentally unstable clients! :)

 

Mike Hughes
forum member

Senior welfare rights officer - Salford City Council Welfare Rights Service

Send message

Total Posts: 2655

Joined: 17 June 2010

I suppose one could ask what’s the difference between “trawling” and the inquisitorial role?

We’ve all had clients observed as they approach venues. Is that overstepping or making sensible use of the very limited information available to you?

Similarly, clients who describe being unable to go further than their local newsagent. Is it unreasonable or genuinely surprising that a tribunal member might use Google Maps and Street view to get an accurate measure of the distance; the incline; the surface and so on?

We’re all for asking tribunals to exercise their powers to seek medical evidence. Why would we expect them to stop there? Not saying I agree with it wholly but simply that it doesn’t come as a particular surprise. That’s maybe why it has attracted so little comment?

John Birks
forum member

Welfare Rights and Debt Advice - Stockport Council

Send message

Total Posts: 1061

Joined: 16 June 2010

past caring - 09 November 2015 01:51 PM
Pete C - 05 November 2015 05:12 PM
bexber - 02 November 2015 11:55 AM

For an ESA appeal the DM had included a screenshot from a historic webpage where my client had posted his mobile number in respect of arranging sports matches. Out of context, no dates included. Beware…

Its not just Facebook or websites, it may be something completely outside the control of the client.

I had a client who was a keen golfer who had claimed that he was unable to walk. A member of the Tribunal who is also a keen golfer looked up the client on a website showing the results of a recent tournament at a local club -  it was clearly shown that the client had played two rounds on a very steep and hilly course in the recent past. The allegation was, I am pleased to say, properly put to the client and I then asked for an adjournment to discuss the allegation. The client conceded that it was in fact true. He insisted we finish the appeal but needless to say he lost.

I must admit that I was mortified that he hadn’t told me and that I didn’t have the nous to check for myself!

 

A little surprised this one has passed with so little comment…

Leaving aside the actual merits of the case, this seems to me unacceptable - to my mind it’s the supposedly independent judiciary effectively trawling for unfavourable evidence and acting as prosecution. It seems to me that regardless of whether the evidence/allegation is put to the appellant, this goes beyond the scenario where the appellant says they can walk no further than between specified location A and specified location B and a tribunal uses googlemaps or somesuch to establish the distance between the two points.

On a slightly lighter note (well, perhaps not!!) - I only recently twigged that Facebook ‘friend suggestions’ are generated not just by your already existing friends but also when someone has searched for and viewed your Facebook profile. A little unsettling when these suggestions are for your more mentally unstable clients! :)

I’m only surprised that it’s unacceptable only if you lead the merits aside.

It is unacceptable.

It’s unacceptable that a keen golfer thinks they’re OK/justified/entitled to claim having walked a course let alone steep and hilly.

It’s unacceptable (to me) that the result and/or merits do not matter as long as the ‘authorities’ only look at ‘certain’ information [and then in ignorance of other info.]

The right result is the right result.

NB No golfers were harmed in this case to my knowledge.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

 

 

Gareth Morgan
forum member

CEO, Ferret, Cardiff

Send message

Total Posts: 1821

Joined: 16 June 2010

past caring - 09 November 2015 01:51 PM

to my mind it’s the supposedly independent judiciary effectively trawling for unfavourable evidence and acting as prosecution.

Is it OK to trawl for favourable evidence?

Evidence is evidence.

Faceache
forum member

Money Matters, South Lanarkshire Council

Send message

Total Posts: 28

Joined: 5 February 2014

Looking for evidence to create a doubt about entitlement isn’t hard and in my opinion if everyone claiming PIP/DLA were to be investigated you would inevitability find something which would question entitlement. FACEBOOK, appears to be regularly checked by fraud and error and if settings are not set to private then the necessary permissions are not required and an array of evidence is available however dubious it is.

I personally feel that obtaining permission to film someone (in certain cases) when DLA criteria is in doubt is being abused as Mike highlighted and it’s only a matter of time before FACEBOOK permission to bypass privacy settings become routine now.

nevip
forum member

Welfare rights adviser - Sefton Council, Liverpool

Send message

Total Posts: 3093

Joined: 16 June 2010

Although from an American site, the principles generally apply to all (at least all common law) jurisdictions, subject to any statutory limitations.

“Social media privacy issues are routinely discussed in court. Here is the conclusion judges usually come to: “private” is not the same as “not public.” If you choose to share content—even with a select group of people—it is no longer private. Therefore, it becomes public and available for use in a legal case.” – quoted from site below.

http://www.socialnomics.net/2014/12/30/social-media-can-and-will-be-used-against-you-in-court/

 

past caring
forum member

Welfare Rights Adviser - Southwark Law Centre, Peckham

Send message

Total Posts: 922

Joined: 25 February 2014

John Birks - 10 November 2015 11:50 AM

I’m only surprised that it’s unacceptable only if you lead the merits aside.

It is unacceptable.

It’s unacceptable that a keen golfer thinks they’re OK/justified/entitled to claim having walked a course let alone steep and hilly.

It’s unacceptable (to me) that the result and/or merits do not matter as long as the ‘authorities’ only look at ‘certain’ information [and then in ignorance of other info.]

The right result is the right result.

NB No golfers were harmed in this case to my knowledge.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

The point of leaving the merits of this particular appellant’s claim/appeal aside is to be able to better focus on the question of whether the behaviour of the F-tT panel member is acceptable/is something we’d like to see become the norm. Is that, conceptually, so hard to grasp? Or do you seriously think that I’m arguing that the appellant in this specific case was entitled to benefit and should have had their appeal allowed? Or to put it another way, I think it’s worth putting aside the merits of the particular case in order to think about the wider implications….

We have a whole host of examples in this thread of the adjudicating authorities submitting ‘evidence’ from Facebook and then effectively misrepresenting that evidence by placing it out of any context. Such evidence always runs the risk of being merely a snapshot - even more so if it comes to light for the first time in the course of a tribunal hearing.

I am uncertain as to the availability of computer and internet facilities at the tribunals in which I represent - but I’m pretty certain of the (negative) F-tT reaction were an appellant to request the use of such facilities to allow them to rebutt any evidence that had been gathered in this way. So assuming this evidence is actually put to the appellant;

a) it’s going to be nigh on impossible to counter/respond to effectively on the day of the hearing - making an adjournment inevitable.

b) I don’t have the facility to respond by providing screenshots etc - even if I did, this would be the precisely the kind of snapshot I’ve objected to above. 

c) if one responds by producing links to other information held about the appellant and available on the internet, how can one be sure the panel members actually look at it or find it? The only way of being certain is sitting down with the panel in front of a PC and showing them what you want them to look at - but that’s not going to happen. If evidence is in the papers I can be sure that the tribunal considers it by taking them to it in written and oral submissions.

d) very many of my clients have significant mental health problems. This can be a barrier to convincing many of them that a decision can/should be appealed and even when that barrier is overcome, convincing them that they’re not actually on trial when it comes to attending a tribunal hearing becomes a further problem. Again, for many, to have the F-tT spring evidence on them in a hearing (i.e. effectively appear as if they were show them to be dishonest) would have a significant impact on their ability to give a good account of themselves in the remainder of the hearing, leaving aside the practical difficulties I’ve outlined above about how one might actually be able to refute such evidence on the day…...

e) I suppose another way of saying the same thing is that we’re all familiar with the principle of hearing not only having to be fair but being seen to be fair - I fear that this will go out of the window were we to arrive at a situation where tribunals were routinely springing on an appellant negative evidence they’d discovered about an appellant during a hearing.

e) if such ‘evidence gathering’ becomes the norm, it’s going to change our jobs significantly. I’m sure many of us routinely come up against the problem of appearing to the client as if we disbelieve them or are not on their side when in reality we’re merely testing their evidence in preparation for a tribunal’s likely questioning. It’s not that big an issue and is something we’re usually able to overcome when we explain what we’re doing.

But this is going to be of a different order of magnitude if we have to start googling our clients and conducting social media searches for them because we know it’s just what the F-tT is going to do…...

Gareth Morgan - 10 November 2015 11:58 AM

Is it OK to trawl for favourable evidence?

Evidence is evidence.

What do you think the prospects are of the F-tT informing appellants of every instance in which they search for information and evidence about them on the internet/social media? And informing of the fact that such search had been carried out, regardless of whether or not it brought any information to light? And disclosing all evidence that was viewed, whether or not it might support the appellant’s case - or appear merely neutral?

[ Edited: 10 Nov 2015 at 01:49 pm by past caring ]
Paul_Treloar_CPAG
forum member

Advice and Rights Team, Child Poverty Action Group

Send message

Total Posts: 550

Joined: 30 June 2014

Mike Hughes - 09 November 2015 01:34 PM

Weeeell…

https://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/TheGrimRIPA.pdf

and then do a search for the phrase “abuse of RIPA”. Pretty bleak reading.

Yes, that demonstrates that there are concerns over public bodies abusing their powers in relation to the powers given them by RIPA.

However, none of that shows that “employers” across the piece are doing so, which was what my question related to. 

I realise your employer is a public body, but I think it’s important not to give the impression that any employer would be allowed to access personal communications data. They’re not.

Mike Hughes
forum member

Senior welfare rights officer - Salford City Council Welfare Rights Service

Send message

Total Posts: 2655

Joined: 17 June 2010

Paul_Treloar_CPAG - 10 November 2015 01:55 PM
Mike Hughes - 09 November 2015 01:34 PM

Weeeell…

https://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/TheGrimRIPA.pdf

and then do a search for the phrase “abuse of RIPA”. Pretty bleak reading.

Yes, that demonstrates that there are concerns over public bodies abusing their powers in relation to the powers given them by RIPA.

However, none of that shows that “employers” across the piece are doing so, which was what my question related to. 

I realise your employer is a public body, but I think it’s important not to give the impression that any employer would be allowed to access personal communications data. They’re not.

Hear what you’re saying.

I didn’t post up a link to a great article about abuse by employers in general as it came from The Telegraph (or similar, I’d have to search for it again)  and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. However, in broad terms I think we need to distinguish between what “would be allowed” and what actually happens. The gulf between the two, as Snowden has shown, is now too large to comprehend or control. It’s generally speaking naive to assume that someone isn’t clocking all that you do or that it can’t be grabbed legally or otherwise.

Some private companies for example have email policies which far exceed what they are legally allowed to do. Bottom line? If you don’t consent you don’t get access. If you don’t consent and get access you’re not an employee. If you take it to an ET you’re probably not going to be anyone else’s employee either for a good while.

 

John Birks
forum member

Welfare Rights and Debt Advice - Stockport Council

Send message

Total Posts: 1061

Joined: 16 June 2010

...and there was me thinking this was all about what was right and not how things look.

In the golfing story i doubt very much that the panel member randomly ‘googled’ a random appellant. More likely that the name was familiar - not that the appellant was known to? - and hard facts are in the public domain.

Either that or the suggestion is that tribunals have far too much time and resources on their hands.

This then leads to the question that if one has prior knowledge - either observed at/outside the venue or on ‘unsocial media’ then how, why and what makes it justice to dismiss the same?

IMO it would be better to have all the evidence (Facebook et al) before a tribunal to enable a correct decision and not the bits you like to enable a decision that you ‘like.’

 

Mike Hughes
forum member

Senior welfare rights officer - Salford City Council Welfare Rights Service

Send message

Total Posts: 2655

Joined: 17 June 2010

John Birks - 10 November 2015 03:27 PM

...and there was me thinking this was all about what was right and not how things look.

In the golfing story i doubt very much that the panel member randomly ‘googled’ a random appellant. More likely that the name was familiar - not that the appellant was known to? - and hard facts are in the public domain.

Either that or the suggestion is that tribunals have far too much time and resources on their hands.

This then leads to the question that if one has prior knowledge - either observed at/outside the venue or on ‘unsocial media’ then how, why and what makes it justice to dismiss the same?

IMO it would be better to have all the evidence (Facebook et al) before a tribunal to enable a correct decision and not the bits you like to enable a decision that you ‘like.’

Always amusing to reflect that when one has a different perspective on here there are certain members of the judiciary who will be reading it and storing it away :)

Dan_Manville
forum member

Mental health & welfare rights service - Wolverhampton City Council

Send message

Total Posts: 2262

Joined: 15 October 2012

About the golfer; how would a doctor know to check the golf club scores? Do we think they google everyone or did the name of the appellant ring a bell? I’m not sure this is as insidious as people are saying. (I have just spotted John saying the same thing but will leave this in)

I’m with John as well; the right result is the right result and a good rep is after that; we might not formally have a duty to the Tribunal as legal advocates do but if we act as though we do Tribunals will get to know that and the Judiciary will be thinking “x is involved, there must be soemthing to it” thus it serves our clients’ interests.

As Mike says… my “by ‘eck” thread finally resolved last week and the presiding Judge wasn’t shy of commenting that he’d read the thread. I was quite pleased; I am sometimes shy of discussing cases on here for fear of giving my game plan away. Fair to say he used to contribute here.

[ Edited: 11 Nov 2015 at 12:01 am by Dan_Manville ]
John Birks
forum member

Welfare Rights and Debt Advice - Stockport Council

Send message

Total Posts: 1061

Joined: 16 June 2010

Where is the like button?

past caring
forum member

Welfare Rights Adviser - Southwark Law Centre, Peckham

Send message

Total Posts: 922

Joined: 25 February 2014

Am not quite sure why anyone might think that I’m somehow arguing against a ‘the right result is the right result’ position.

In nearly 20 years of doing this job I can think of no more than three clients who I was certain were trying to pull the wool over my eyes and where I had hard evidence of this. I didn’t allow those cases to get as far as tribunal (at least not with me as rep) but there’s always a possibility that someone will succeed in deceiving me - and I’d have been mortified had I been repping the golfer.

I’m simply worried by the potential for unfairness and injustice that this kind of thing might give rise to.

I’ll feel a lot more comfortable about it when I hear of a decision where the results of such a search are given by a tribunal as at least part of the reason for an appeal being allowed.

1964
forum member

Deputy Manager, Reading Community Welfare Rights Unit

Send message

Total Posts: 1711

Joined: 16 June 2010

I’m with Past Caring on this.  To me, it doesn’t feel so very different to jurors surreptitiously Googling the accused. The potential for a skewed outcome is immense. It really doesn’t sit well with me.