- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 22, 2009

MONTREAL | Facebook can be a double-edged sword, a Canadian woman learned when an insurance company cut her health benefits, claiming she was healthy after seeing pictures of her smiling in a bikini at the beach.

Nathalie Blanchard, 29, took long-term sick leave from her job at IBM in Bromont, Quebec, more than a year ago for severe depression. She was receiving monthly benefits from her insurance company, Manulife.

When Ms. Blanchard called Manulife to inquire why the payments dried up, the insurance company said that “I’m available to work, because of Facebook,” she told CBC television.

She said that Manulife cited several pictures Ms. Blanchard had posted on her social-networking Web-site page, including some showing her enjoying herself during a male strip-tease show at a Chippendales bar, celebrating her birthday and sunbathing.

Based on these postings, the firm claimed Ms. Blanchard was no longer depressed.

Manulife declined to comment on the incident, but said in a statement that “we would not deny or terminate a valid claim solely based on information published on Web sites such as Facebook.”

But the company did recognize that it uses such information to learn more about its clients.