When Information on Social Networking Sites Jumps Off-Line and Into the Courtroom

If you have read our blog before, then you know we’re all for social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, among others. However, it’s important for attorneys and plaintiffs to remember that while these sites offer certain privacy settings, data can still be accessed for a personal injury or criminal defense case. Most attorneys understand the potential complications that information on these sites can pose during court proceedings, so this may not be news to you. Nevertheless, the common misconceptions that information on these sites is completely private, that your client is too old to use these sites, or doesn’t have a social profile are still prevalent.

Social networking sites are not only for teenagers and young adults. More and more adults are now tweeting and posting on their Facebook “wall.” With the evolution of the Internet, information can be shared in a matter of seconds, with a simple click, and through various written, audio, and video forms. Social networking sites make it easier for people to share what’s going on in their lives. But does your client know the potential consequences of sharing or posting information – even if they believe it to be “private” – about their lawsuit on these sites?

One solution to this potential problem is to keep informed about what social networking sites are doing to their privacy settings. What is the most important thing you can do? Communicate. Talk to your client and make sure they understand the importance of confidentiality and trust. You’re not going to post information about their pending lawsuit on your Facebook wall, and neither should they.

According to a Trial article, MySpace and Twitter caution users in online agreements that the companies may have to share user information in order to comply with the law. Facebook has stated similarly that it may share information if asked to do so following being issued a subpoena. So even if your client has set their privacy settings so that only their “friends” or “friends of friends” can view their personal profile, this information ultimately is not private in the legal world as courts are starting to examine the possible ways in which this information can be accessed.

Before you panic and think that you need to delete all of your social networking profiles, remember that these platforms still serve an important purpose. They are a way for you to stay connected to people in your life and they do play a role in your legal Internet marketing efforts. The key is to make sure that you (and most importantly, your client) are not posting or sharing anything that you wouldn’t want the rest of the legal world to see.

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