William W. Hurst
Law Office of William W. Hurst, LLC
50 S. Meridian St., Suite 600, Indianapolis, IN 46204
No matter how familiar this world gets with social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, it still seems that some people ignore an obvious truth: the words, ideas, pictures and things you put online can be used against you. Just as personal communications, recollections, notes, and even a person’s diary are discoverable in a civil lawsuit, so too are most things online. This is true even if your “privacy settings” are turned up to their limits.
It is old news to the legal community that Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and other such networking sites can either be a goldmine for incriminating knowledge or a landmine waiting to ruin a case. Numerous courts have come out reinforcing the idea that content posted on such sites is discoverable, usually with the justification that anything posted on such an account is quasi-public and thus there is no real expectation that the material is private. State and Federal Courts have been ruling that the opposing party may be given access to private photos and comments that are relevant to the various claims being made by the other side in a lawsuit. In Indiana, a federal judge ordered production of requested social media on the pretense there is no expectation of privacy on anything that is posted on Facebook and other social media sites by the litigants. EEOC v Simply Storage Management, LLC, 270 FRD 430 (S. Dist. Ind. 2010). Cases are also replete with instances where testimony from a party or a witness is contradicted by social media produced by the other side. An accident victim claiming pain, suffering, and near paralysis can easily be painted as a liar by Facebook pictures on the sandy beaches of Cabo San Lucas.
The general rule seems to be if you put it on the internet, you have no expectation of privacy, and therefore it’s likely going to be discoverable even if you try to hide it. The moral of this story is don’t put anything on the internet that you don’t want to be seen, even if you are planning on deleting it. One may also assume that in this current day and age insurance companies will start monitoring and copying social networking accounts immediately after an accident occurs.
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