Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other forms of social media can become an addiction for many individuals including entrepreneurs and business owners. Many folks post numerous daily updates of their thoughts and activities. Privacy is becoming a diminishing commodity these days as society encourages people to use social media as a business marketing tool, mental therapy, as a replacement for real friends, or for pure entertainment. Did you know that your competitors and adversaries could use this information against you?
Social media pages are not immune from the rules regarding pre-trial discovery. Facebook pages are being treated as personal journals and diaries in many personal injury lawsuits. Lawyers for insurance companies such as I.C.B.C. routinely review the activities of personal injury plaintiffs to verify if their daily activities are consistent with the injuries that they are alleging as a result of a M.V.A.
If the plaintiff is claiming serious whiplash and soft tissue injuries because they were rear-ended in a car accident, and they spent the last long weekend snowboarding, sky-diving, bungee-jumping and partying in a mosh pit, they can kiss the chances of a healthy settlement good-bye. “Adios Muchacho!!” Their claim will likely be “done like dinner!”
Many employees have been fired because they’re so called Monday sick-day was not really a sick day but rather a continuation of their weekend debauchery. Employers monitor social media not only for potential job candidates but also for current employees. Teachers, firefighters and waitresses are among those who have made the news for learning the hard way that using Facebook to criticize your employer or your customers can have drastic consequences. Keep the tequila body shot photo bomb pictures private along with the weekend pole dancing selfies. Nothing good will come from it.
Some recent American cases demonstrate the harsh circumstances of some ill-advised social media posts. Numerous teachers have lost their jobs over Facebook incidents. A Georgia teacher was forced to resign after her principal saw pictures on the teacher’s Facebook page showing her holding beer mugs and wine. A Massachusetts teacher was forced to resign after she wrote on her Facebook page that she wasn’t looking forward to another year at the school, and that residents of the community were “arrogant and snobby.”
Potential business partners and clients will conduct due diligence on their service providers before they agree to enter into any type of long term business relationship. Your corporate brand and reputation is an extension of who you align and partner yourself with in business. Individuals are responsible for managing their professional identity in cyberspace including the ways in which that professional identity is connected to their personal identity and activities. Never underestimate the power of impression management.
To quote the famous Forrest Gump, Facebook pages can be best thought of like a “box of chocolates.” You never know what you are going to get or find. Facebook pages are indeed like a box full of diverse documents that may or may not be relevant to the allegations in a lawsuit. Those that are relevant must be disclosed. If a plaintiff makes a post or uploads a photo on Facebook that contradicts their evidence, opposing counsel will certainly use that as ammunition against the claimant.
In this type of analysis, a Court will consider the likelihood of relevant information on a social media page. An example is if there are photographs of a plaintiff engaging in activities that she says she is unable to perform as a result of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident or WCB claim. In coming to a conclusion, the court will consider the plaintiff’s expectation of privacy. If the plaintiff has a large number of friends and intends that their posts be public, the court is more likely to allow production of the social media pages.
A free Facebook app called “Privacy Defender” has recently hit the market. The app monitors settings so you can easily adjust your privacy settings to share your life with only the people you want. Be smart and exercise discretion before you post anything on social media. Someone close to you is always watching.
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*The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Custom legal advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.