What, When & How Your Social Media Can be Used In A Court Of Law

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Careful what you put on your Facebook pages – your boss might be reading! Remember those party pictures? How about that time you were “in drag” for Halloween? And should you really leave those rude comments up by your former college buddy on your wall?

Let’s face it – we’ve all made mistakes online. Luckily though, that’s pretty easy to fix.

Or is it?

Deleting something does not make it go away forever. The data can still be retrieved and or analyzed, your activities can be tracked by anybody with expertise who examines your computer. Even logging into your Facebook pages can be tracked.

Now, why would such a thing ever happen? You’d be surprised.

If you sue somebody for injuries, you may have to hand over your family’s computer. Sound crazy? It’s not. On March 5, 2009, a judge in Cranbrook, BC ordered a person who’d suffered a brain injury in a car accident, to turn over the family PC’s hard drive.

The reason? The defence wanted to see how much time the plaintiff spent online between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. each night. This case raises a lot of interesting issues. When you start a lawsuit, have you completely given up your right to privacy? The reported legal cases have been struggling with this issue for a long time. The internet has now added a brand new dimension to this question. Is everything you do online subject to scrutiny? Based on this latest court decision, it looks like the answer to that is “yes”.

During any lawsuit, all parties must reveal their evidence before trial. The lawyers often grapple before trial with the issue of which documents are relevant. A party can’t be forced to produce thousands of pages which only “might” be relevant (too much time and expense), and neither can they be forced to break a confidential relationship or disclose highly embarrassing, personal information

In this case, which is fast becoming known in the legal world as “The Facebook decision”, the defendant asked the court to allow them to retrieve records of when the plaintiff logged into and out of Facebook each night. He has claimed that he can’t work due to fatigue.

The defendant argued that examining the Facebook login/logout records may yield evidence of the plaintiff’s sleeping patterns and this information, they said, would relate to his fatigue and his ability to work. Arguably, if he is contributing to his own fatigue by staying up all night on Facebook, then the defendant could rely on this information to deny or reduce the claim.

The courts have been asked to decide on this issue before. In one case, the judge held that “the request for private emails and internet searches was held to be a fishing expedition and, as the groundwork was not laid down to show that there were fish worth catching, was dismissed.”

This was a very important decision, since it gives us a hint of how the courts will deal with the relatively new world of cyberspace. So beware – your every move on the internet might actually turn out to be evidence in court one day.

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