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Exposure for Internet Related/Social Networking Liability
By: Paula Burns

Social networking is a phenomenon sweeping the entire world. The statistics are staggering! The social networking website called Facebook claims that it has more than 1.39 billion monthly active users and has an average user increase of 13% each year. Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter are also huge platforms for social networking, and many others are coming online monthly!  Research tells us church members are communicating with their own church through these avenues more than ever before. 

Many churches are responding to this change to maintain their cultural relevance. By utilizing websites, blogs and social networking avenues, churches are able to connect not only to their members but now have a reach that far exceeds geographical boundaries. The Internet has been an amazing evangelism tool, but with the increased "reach" also comes increased risk.  

The scope of risk to ministry is broad if there is no risk management platform in place to identify and monitor the social networking/website exposures. The key to reducing this risk is having a "Gatekeeper" in your organization who has been trained on the key exposures for Internet Liability. We have identified some of the top risks such as:

 Invasion of Privacy:

o Claims can come from posting photos online

o Infringement of right of privacy

 Personal Injury Claims:

o Defamation, libel, slander written on website

 Intellectual Property Claims:

o Infringement or violation of copyright, trademark, trade name; domain name infringement

 Network Security / Data Breach Claims:

o Churches are also subject to laws regulating data breaches and it is costly to comply with the requirements of:

 Notification expenses

 Credit Monitoring

 Forensic Analysis Costs

 Additional exposures to consider:

o Communicating with youth on a social media platform

o Streaming sermons / services on the web

o Virus / Data corruption to both organization and third parties

o Social networking sites that are not organization sponsored that have the appearance of your church. For example, a member opens a Facebook page and uses the church logo to communicate with other members. The public can think it is a church-sponsored site; meanwhile, none of the content has been approved by the Gatekeeper. This happens often and is a very high risk to the ministry!

In addition to training the staff and Gatekeeper, the organization can transfer this risk by purchasing a Cyber Liability Policy. Outlined below is an overview of the most common coverage options offered in a Cyber Liability Policy:

Network Security and Privacy Liability

Covers liability arising out of your computer system transmitting a computer virus to a third party, as well as liability for damage due to theft or loss of personally identifiable information of others.

Electronic Media Liability

Covers actual or alleged infringement of another's copyright, trademark, trade dress, slogan or service mark; plagiarism; defamation, libel or slander; or violation of a person's right to privacy from something posted on your website.

Funds Transfer Fraud Liability

Covers actual or alleged acts, errors, omissions, negligence or breaches of duty that result in an outside individual accessing bank account information of others through the named insured's computer system, and making fraudulent electronic funds transfers out of those accounts.

Privacy Breach Expenses

Covers costs you incur following a privacy breach. Covered expenses include computer forensic expenses, notification costs, credit monitoring services and other costs to comply with breach notification laws.

Paula Burns specializes in insuring larger churches and non-profit organizations and has been in the insurance industry for 29 years. Insurance One provides niche insurance solutions for churches, private schools and various non-profit organizations, www.insuranceoneagency.com.


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