Is Facebook a privacy harbor in case of a civil lawsuit? Can your Facebook posts be used against you even if they are tagged as private? This is the question that the court of Pennsylvania- Franklin county (USA) answered last November.
Following an accident, the plaintiffs claimed serious injury. She testified that she suffered from chronic physical and mental pains, and used a cane to walk. The defendant claimed that on the plaintiff’s Facebook account, the plaintiff announced that she went to gym and posted family pictures that contradicted the allegations. The plaintiff claimed that it could not be used in front of the court.
The judge ruled differently and detailed his objections in a 14 page opinion document. The rationales:
- Discoverability; the court made it clear that material on social networks was discoverable on civil cases
- Privacy; the court made it clear that there was no expectation of privacy on social networks because their purpose was to share with others.
Almost all information on Facebook is shared with third parties, and there is no reasonable privacy expectation in such information… even “private” Facebook posts are shared with others.
- Embarrassment; The judge estimated that contrary to personal sure that may create embarrassment, it is not the case for Facebook posts and posted pictures as their purpose is to be shared with others.
This is an interesting statement that highlights that privacy in social network is more related to access control than to actual privacy, at least for the US law. An interesting reading that shows all the complexity of privacy in front of the law.
PS: I was not able to find out if the use of these posts helped the defender to win or not.