Social networking sites have become a virtual coffee shop of sorts where people can meet new friends or find old ones by "posting" information on their personal sites.
However, those people who are pursing claims in lawsuits or who are dealing with insurance companies should be alert to what they post on social networking sites or what is being posted about them by others. One’s privacy concerns can be readily encroached up on this way.
Popular social networking sites include Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and MySpace although there are several hundred more than that. Facebook leads the social networking world with over 500 million users. Think about that for a minute…
It is important to regularly check the privacy settings on your social networking sites. On most of these types of Web sites, your personal information is public unless you manually set your profile to private.
Romano v. Steelcase Inc.
Recently, The New York State Bar Association issued an opinion regarding the use of social networking sites to compile information on a client (Opinion 843), stemming from Romano v. Steelcase Inc. In short, an attorney can legally search for and use against you, any information accessed on social networking sites by either the general public or anyone registered within the network. However, an attorney cannot friend request you or take additional steps to gain access to private information. Which leads us back to the original concern, have you checked your privacy settings lately?
Think twice before posting anything on your social networking profile that can in anyway be misconstrued or taken out of context for use against you in a lawsuit. In fact, a plaintiff should assume that anything he/she posts, including photos, videos and comments could potentially end up being viewed by the defendant, and more importantly a jury.
Courts may also examine the privacy policies of the social networking sites themselves. Many of these sites explicitly state that they do not guarantee the privacy of user content.
Social networking has created a new age of sharing and openness for a lot of people. However, over-sharing – especially when you are a personal injury plaintiff – is a big concern. If at any time you are not sure, while posting a photo, video or comment, chances are the answer is to not post it.
A Cum Laude Honors graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Alabama tort law expert Mike Roberts has successfully litigated cases covering civil litigation, personal injury, negligence, product liability, wrongful death and fraud. He is the author of six editions of Alabama Tort Law, and is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court.