Do you have the right to keep your private items private on Facebook?

psspadlockInsurance defense attorneys have one purpose during the litigation process—deny the plaintiff coverage payments from the insurance company. Although very harsh, this statement is true. Before reacting though, please remember that there are two sides to every story and they are only doing their jobs. Therefore, a primary objective of the defense attorneys is proving that the plaintiff’s claim is unsubstantiated or is a fraud.

Social Media: For You and Against You

Had a dream vacation? Flaunt it through Facebook. Did a daring stunt? Post it on Facebook. Involved in an insurance claim? Hhmm….set it to private! But please proceed with caution; with the growing popularity of posting everything online, users who are involved in civil cases against insurance companies now find themselves at the mercy of insurance defense lawyers. Status updates, comments, photos, videos and any other postings that work to the advantage of insurance defense lawyers can be procured through a court order signed by the plaintiffs themselves.

The federal Stored Communications Act protects users from such means of evidence gathering. Defense lawyers are prohibited by law to subpoena social media sites such as Facebook to collect evidence from private portions of the profiles of users involved in non criminal cases such as these. Websites can opt not to provide information that is not publicly shared even when subpoenaed. But a loophole was found. Websites can disclose private communications and user records provided that the user lawfully consents to it.

Defense lawyers ask judges to order the plaintiff to sign consent forms permitting them access to personal materials necessary during the litigation process. This consent form is then attached to a subpoena for the sites, ordering them to hand over printouts of profile pages otherwise set private or password protected. With the authorization from the users themselves, social media sites have no choice but to yield.

Facebook filed a motion contending the move of defense lawyers by gathering evidence from online materials through a subpoena directed to their site, stating that subpoenas should be addressed to the plaintiffs themselves and not through Facebook. Spokesman Andrew Noyes though recognizes the fact that those involved in civil cases have the right to both protect and produce evidence that may be found relevant to the case–simply put, posting everything is a double edged sword; setting it to private protects the evidence but litigation processes can make a user produce the evidence themselves.

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