Although a New York judge's recent ruling concerning the privacy of material posted on Facebook or MySpace is based on state law, it also has nationwide implications. The Suffolk County judge in a personal injury case ruled that social network info otherwise protected behind privacy settings can be used as evidence in court, a Wall Street Journal blog reported.
Judge Jeffrey Arlen Spinner based his ruling on an interpretation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), which federal lawmakers are in the process of updating, according to Forbes.
He ruled that Facebook and similar social networks are in fact centered around the idea of sharing information:
"To permit a party claiming very substantial damages for loss of enjoyment of life to hide behind self-set privacy controls on a website, the primary purpose of which is to enable people to share information ..., risks depriving the opposite party of access to material that may be relevant to ensuring a fair trial."
Since different judges have radically different interpretations of the 24-year-old law, which predates public adoption of the Internet, it might be helpful to ask an Atlanta injury attorney how a Georgia court might handle similar cases.
The New York case involves a woman named Kathleen Romano, who sued chair company Steelcase Inc. after falling out of an allegedly defective chair and sustaining serious injuries. She claimed to have needed several surgeries and that she'd been bedridden ever since.
Steelcase's attorneys claim Kathleen Romano's Facebook and MySpace profiles depict a smiling and uninjured-looking individual, also claiming that she posted pictures of a trip to Florida. They wanted access to the private sections of her social network profiles, which the judge ultimately granted.
The Forbes article outlines another lawsuit, this one in California, where a federal judge took the opposite route. He ruled that if his Facebook wall is set to "everyone," then nothing is private; but if he restricted access to friends only, then information would be considered as private as an e-mail message.