by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:


Could Facebook's Ever-Changing Privacy Policies Impact Whether You Can Subpoena's Someone's Facebook Page In Court?

from the ah,-legal-complexities dept

Michael Scott points us to an interesting analysis of a case that examined whether or not certain aspects of your Facebook page could be subpoenaed in a civil lawsuit, and the answer more or less came down to the privacy settings on that content:
The case involved copyright claims brought by a plaintiff who licensed his artwork to a garment maker. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant-licensee used the copyrighted material outside the scope of the license and breached the license agreement. The defendant-licensee issued a subpoena to Facebook seeking the plaintiff's Facebook wall posts, profile information, and communications with a third party. The plaintiff moved to quash the subpoena, arguing that the Facebook messages, wall postings, and certain profile information fell under the Stored Communications Act and therefore could not be produced by Facebook pursuant to a civil subpoena.

The court largely agreed, although it remanded to the magistrate judge for the magistrate judge to address the factual issue of whether certain of the sought after information was publicly available. To the extent the privacy settings on the profile page allowed the general public to access the information it could be produced by Facebook, but non-public information would be treated differently.
That definitely makes sense, but with so much attention recently on Facebook's ever changing privacy policies, you may have to add in a time-component as well. However, it does seem weird that a change in Facebook's policies could determine whether or not your Facebook wall ends up in court...

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2010 @ 4:14am

    Actually, isn't this a problem with the legal system being implemented improperly?

    Facebook is completely incidental to the situation at hand. In fact, ANY website could cause this problem.

    The reasons why Facebook is the focus here is because Facebook is popular and Facebook has revised their privacy policy frequently. But the actual root of the problem remains in the legal system itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 9 Jun 2010 @ 5:14am

    Facebook is essentially public

    I think you has to accept that anything you put on any website is potentially public. Any other attitude is an invitation to unpleasant surprises.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bond... James Bond..., 9 Jun 2010 @ 6:24am


    Just assume that any message that doesn't self-destruct after it is read will end up SOMEWHERE on the internet FOREVER.

    And consider, that even self-destructing messages could even be recorded using a small eyeglass mounted video camera, which formerly were only available to agents with a 00 rating, but are now available for under $200 from many places on the internet.

    There is no expectation of privacy once you speak or write anything. Remember, two men can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.

    If you want something kept secret, either invest in your own Dome of Silence or Stare at Goats until you can communicate telepathically.

    Where's my martini... ah yes... shaken, not stirred... just the way I like it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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