06/01/2012 03:05 pm ET Updated Aug 01, 2012

'Social Security' Could Be the Future of Insurance

There have been many instances in the news of late of consumers and corporations in trouble as a result of social media antics. A young girl was recently surprised to find a picture of herself on a t-shirt in Tesco, and accused the supermarket giant of copying the image from her blog without her permission.

On another occasion, the world's largest hamburger chain McDonalds started a hashtag on Twitter asking people to share their #McDStories. Needless to say, the majority of replies ended up being wholly negative, with consumers tweeting about upset stomachs and even fingernails found in food.

Perhaps as a result of these high-profile incidents, CII has found that more and more consumers would be prepared to insure themselves against instances where they might be negatively personally or professionally affected by social media -- if such products were available.

The rise of social media has opened the public to a new raft of different types of risk. With the widespread uptake on social networking sites, online banking and personal email accounts, the public are now under threat from a wide variety of attacks that could lead to financial or reputational loss.

Recent research from the CII has shown that consumers would consider purchasing insurance against paying legal fees for a job loss, divorce or reputational law suit (29 percent) -- and that a third would take this a step further by insuring their personal image rights against being used without their permission on social media (35 percent). Consumers clearly have a strong instinct to protect themselves against this kind of risk.

The use of social media has grown exponentially and people forget how easy it is to expose themselves to a wide range of risks from identity theft, to being pursued by others for defamatory remarks. Many companies now check social media sources before employing individuals, and there have been many high-profile cases of people losing their jobs following inappropriate Facebook and Twitter posts.

Social media incidents are leading to substantial financial exposures and as with previous emerging risks, the insurance industry is responding with innovative solutions. No one knows when the 'tipping point' will come, but at some point in the future, we can expect this type of cover to form an important part of businesses and individuals' insurance portfolios.

Five social media mistakes that ended badly:

Gilbert Gottfried

Gottfried, an American comedian, made jokes on his Twitter account in reference to the earthquake disaster in Japan. His sponsor Aflac, which conducts 75% of its business in Japan, dismissed him as the voice of their mascot.

Trevor Luxton

A City banker who sent inappropriate emails about his ex-girlfriend that went viral was suspended, and eventually resigned from his job at a top French bank.

Kenneth Cole

The U.S. shoe designer was accused of "hijacking" the #Cairo hashtag during the historic North African revolution, which was helping Twitter users track the latest news from Egypt, in order to promote his shoe collection. Exposed to social media uproar, he swiftly apologised.

Leigh Van Bryan

Two Britons were refused entry to the U.S. on security grounds after a tweet proclaiming they would "destroy America". Despite insisting they were referring to simply "having a good time" -- they were sent home.

Gene Morphis

CFO of fashion retailer Francesca's Holdings Corp was dismissed due to tweeting company-sensitive information on his personal Facebook and Twitter pages.