Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Are Facebook "wall" posts discoverable in civil litigation?

Here's an interesting article from law.com about the discoverability in civil litigation of social networking data such as Facebook "wall" posts.  According to the authors:

In Crispin v. Christian Audigier Inc., [No. CV 09-09509 MMM, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52832 (C.D. Cal. May 26, 2010)],  the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California examined whether messages and "wall posts" from social networking Web sites can be subpoenaed in a civil case. Plaintiff in that case brought an action for the misuse and non-consensual use of his artwork. Defendants served subpoenas on Facebook and MySpace, seeking all of plaintiff's communications related to a relevant license agreement.

In its ruling on plaintiff's motion to quash, the court held that the Stored Communications Act prevents providers of communication services from divulging private communications to certain parties and creates a Fourth Amendment-like privacy protection by statute. The court therefore extended protection to private messages on social networking sites since they "are not readily accessible to the general public." At the same time, the court implied that wall postings and comments on these sites are not protected where they are readily available to a wider audience.

In other words, turn-on those privacy settings on your Facebook account if you don't want your wall posts to fall into the hands of a litigant in a civil matter.   

You can read more about the legal issues raised by civil discovery proceedings and social networking data here.



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