Why do social networks such as Facebook, My Space, Twitter and others matter so much?
People who consistently use Facebook, My Space, Twitter or other social networking sites to post events, pictures and daily activities online,risk having what they perceive as private information exposed during the discovery phase of litigation. Whether it’s because a person was injured by negligence, a matrimonial matter or criminal case, when they post information about their personal relationships, activities, lifestyle and injuries, this information can be used as fair game to prove inconsistencies in their legal claims.
Courts have generally held that when a user makes information available publically via their privacy settings, there is a lower expectation of privacy and, therefore, the information is discoverable. In the 2010 New York case of Romano v. Steelcase Inc. [30 Misc.3d 426, 907 N.Y.S.2d 650, (N.Y. Sup. Ct., 2010)], the Court allowed discovery of entire social media sites with all current and deleted postings, which included ordering the plaintiff to provide the defendant with access to private postings from two social media sites. The reasoning behind the Court’s decision was that information contradicting the plaintiff’s claims was included on the public sections of the plaintiff’s social media site and, therefore, it was reasonable to believe that the private sections might contain additional relevant information. The Court even cited Facebook and MySpace policies, which warn users they should have no expectation of privacy.
“With social networks, we’re able to visualize the connections between individuals, says Fred Stutzman, Ph.D., student and teaching fellow, School of Information and Library Science at UNC Chapel Hill. “Even if the value or magnitude of the connection is the same for everyone (and that doesn’t mirror real life), knowing the connections between individuals helps us better understand them, who they are connected to, and how they are connected to us.”
We had a client that was dancing at her sister’s wedding and looked in fabulous condition without any apparent physical limitations when the videographer recorded her tearing it up on the dance floor and the video was later uploaded to a relative’s facebook page. The next day, she could hardly get out of bed and she couldn’t walk but that was not on video. It is difficult to explain these candid moments to a jury.