Social networking posters beware…your Facebook and other social media accounts may be seen by more than just your friends; in fact, what you post and tweet could become court evidence.
But many of us don’t consider these implications when tweeting and posting. Current employers, potential employers and, yes, even attorneys review social networking sites for information on workers, job candidates and litigants.
Individuals as well as organizations need to carefully consider what they post to these sites. In the personal injury case of McMillen v. Hummingbird Speedway, Inc., No. 113-2010 CD (C.P. Jefferson, Sept. 9, 2010), Hummingbird Speedway, Inc. sought access to plaintiff’s social network accounts, requesting an eDiscovery production of his usernames, log-ins and passwords.
Plaintiff objected, arguing that the information on those sites was confidential. Upon defendants’ Motion to Compel, the court found the requested information was not confidential or subject to the protection of any evidentiary privilege and ordered its production to defendants’ attorneys within 15 days. Additionally, the court ordered that plaintiff should not take steps to delete or alter the existing information on his social network accounts. The court said:
Specifically addressing the expectation of privacy with regard to Facebook and MySpace, the court found that any such expectation “would be unrealistic.” The court then analyzed the relevant policies of the two sites, and concluded as to both that, “[w]hen a user communicates through Facebook or MySpace, however, he or she understands and tacitly submits to the possibility that a third-party recipient, i.e., one or more site operators, will also be receiving his or her messages and may further disclose them if the operator deems disclosure to be appropriate.” Accordingly, the court determined that defendant could not successfully assert that his accounts were confidential. In so holding, the court also noted the possibility that communications could be disclosed by friends of the account holder with whom the communications were shared.
Organizations need to establish and enforce employee social media policies to lower their risk and better protect their brand. Check out this related blog titled “Companies Need a Social Media Policy” for suggestions on establishing a corporate social media policy. And for all of us posters, bloggers and tweeters, be careful what you say; otherwise, it could be read back to you by an employer or judge.