Judge: Don’t Change Your Privacy Settings During Litigation

facebook-privacy3A judge in a Fair Housing Act lawsuit reprimanded the plaintiff in the case this week for making her Facebook account private during litigation.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendant, a landlord, did not rent an apartment to the plaintiff after learning that two of the plaintiff’s children would be living with her. The plaintiff’s Facebook became an issue when the defense noticed her privacy setting change and flagged it with the judge. Crucially, the judge had already asked her not to hide or delete her Facebook posts as litigants “have a duty to preserve evidence.”

[The plaintiff’s] conduct had the effect of hiding her postings from public view, and hence from defendants’ counsel’s view,” the court said. “Of course, it does not appear that the postings were deleted, and they remain available for defendants’ use… Nevertheless, it is troubling that the posts were removed from public view after this Court issued a consent order designed to preserve the status quo of her social media accounts.”

The plaintiff offered to print out any Facebook posts the defense wanted to see — but that was after she’d already changed her privacy settings. The judge in the case did not sanction the plaintiff for her actions, but did warn that it could hurt her case during trial.

So, just as a fair warning: if you find yourself involved in any kind of litigation, it’s probably a good idea to adjust your privacy settings before you make it into the courtroom.