Court Says Personal Injury Plaintiff Has To Give Defendant Access To Facebook & Myspace Info
from the privacy-schmivacy dept
A woman who sued office furniture company Steelcase after claiming serious injuries after falling off a Steelcase chair has been told by a judge that she needs to give Steelcase access to private Facebook and MySpace postings, as the company claims that the publicly available information contradicted her claims of injury and harm. Steelcase noted that what could be seen publicly:
“reveal[ed] that she has an active lifestyle and can travel and apparently engages in many other physical activities inconsistent with her claims in this litigation.” For example, Steelcase said Romano’s public profile on Facebook depicted her “smiling happily in a photograph outside the confines of her home despite her claim that she … is largely confined to her house and bed.”
Because of this, Steelcase claimed it should get access to the private parts of her MySpace and Facebook accounts as part of the discovery process. Facebook actually jumped in at this point to side with the woman, noting that handing over info on the woman’s profile would like violate the Stored Communications Act. MySpace did not bother to get involved to protect its user (does anyone still even work there?).
The judge, however, felt otherwise, and ordered that the information be turned over, saying that it was “reasonable to infer from the limited postings on Plaintiff’s public Facebook and MySpace profile pages, that her private pages may contain materials and information that are relevant to her claims or that may lead to the disclosure of admissible evidence.” I do understand the basic reasoning, but it does seem troubling, as there may be plenty of other private information that’s revealed in this manner.
The judge’s Fourth Amendment analysis is also troubling. He pointed out that both MySpace and Facebook warn users that content they post may be seen by others — and, from that, concludes that there’s no expectation of privacy:
“Thus, when Plaintiff created her Facebook and MySpace accounts, she consented to the fact that her personal information would be shared with others, notwithstanding her privacy settings. Indeed, that is the very nature and purpose of these social networking sites or they would cease to exist,”
That seems to be taking the terms of service out of context however, and seems like really questionable reasoning. Just because some info could be seen by others, does not mean that all info is considered available to the public with no expectation of privacy.