When Private Doesn’t Always Mean Private

The advent and proliferation of social media has allowed the world to connect easily by computer or phone. With Facebook boasting over 500 million users and Twitter's ever expanding reach, social media is everywhere.

From wedding photos and vacation photos to photos from a Friday night with friends, they're all there. From wishing someone 'Happy Birthday' to venting about an annoyance and commenting on a friends post, they're all there too.

The best part? Through privacy settings, who sees comments, pictures and posts can be limited to a select group. Maintaining the "private" nature of your social media content can be more difficult and requires special attention.

Not as Private as First Thought

Many defendants in civil lawsuits, particularly personal injury claims, are using social media to gather information to defend against claims. If an injured party claims to be homebound or to have suffered a limitation of some kind in the lawsuit subsequently posts pictures or makes comments on social media - which they were thought to be private based on privacy settings - that show otherwise, these photos and comments are more and more being used against them in the personal injury suit.

While social media companies fall under the Stored Communications Act - the act that protects online privacy by regulating how and when private information can be given out in a non-criminal situation - attorneys are finding ways to have judges require parties to sign consent forms so that social media companies must provide copies of "private" information posted or hosted on their site.

It is important to note that "private" does not mean absolutely protected. Information on social media is NOT confidential, stemming from a privileged relationship such as attorney-client or priest-penitent, meaning that it can potentially be shared in court.

Social media offers new and amazing ways to share the information of our lives with our good friends, including our new friends - defense attorneys. Therefore, litigants must be especially aware of who may ultimately see any posting or commenting on social media sites before or during any litigation.