Judge Orders Divorcing Couple to Trade Facebook Passwords

FacebookLogo2Deep in the bowels of Facebook’s Terms of Use is this short but very important clause:

You will not share your password, let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.

It’s something that all of us agreed to the moment we signed up for the website and are expected to uphold as long as we’re using the social networking site. However, what are we expected to do when a judge gives the order to actually hand over our Facebook password to someone else in order to resolve a case?

Some people might find this hard to believe, but the truth is that such instances are becoming more and more common these days. Social networking sites offer evidence that comes “straight from the horse’s mouth”, so to speak, which can substantially impact court proceedings.

However, more sensitive and damning evidence can usually be found in private messages and chat logs – and the only way to come by this sort of evidence is to have access to the person’s social networking account. Usually, attorneys need to make do with whatever is visible to the public or to ask people who have access to the material to turn it over as evidence. Some judges, however, have taken it upon themselves to force the litigants to hand over their Facebook passwords to facilitate the gathering of evidence.

In fact, just recently, one couple was asked to swap passwords in order to help resolve a custody dispute. The husband claims that he saw some rather incriminating things on their shared computer. He suspects that they could find more evidence in her Facebook, eHarmony, and Match accounts. The husband’s lawyer asked the wife for her passwords, a request which she obviously refused. But then her own lawyer advised her to hand them over – at which point, the wife went and asked her friend to change her passwords and to delete some data.

The judge then issued an order forbidding her to delete anything on those accounts. The husband, too, was asked to hand over his passwords – which he willingly did, claiming complete confidence that he has nothing to hide. The lawyers on both sides are now free to scour the opposing camp’s social networking accounts for any possible evidence that might be relevant to the case.

The judge did issue an order forbidding both parties to post messages pretending to be the other, so they are at least safe from impersonation pranks. However, such a court order is highly invasive and something that everyone must keep in mind while accessing social networking sites.

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