Could Social Networking Hurt Your Lawsuit?

Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C.Have you checked the privacy settings on your social networking sites recently? Because of a new ruling in New York, it is even more important to make sure that the general public can’t view your profile.

Social Networking sites have become an integral part of today’s society. They allow users from all over the world to connect not only with friends and family, but also with people who share similar interests, career paths, backgrounds, taste in music and many other aspects.

Facebook leads the social networking world with over 500 million users, with MySpace and Twitter following behind them with over 100 million users each (Registered Users of Social Networking Sites). A recent Nielsen social networking report stated that the world spends over 100 billion minutes on social networking and blogging sites, which equates to 22% of all online usage.

Most of these social networking sites make your information you post to your page public unless you manually change your profile to private. These sites, especially Facebook, have been facing major criticism recently regarding their privacy flaws. Some smaller sites may not even allow you to completely control your privacy settings and limit those that have access to your information.

Generally, these privacy settings are used to block certain people from being able to view their photos and postings, such as potential employers, co-workers, adversaries, etc.   Now, the privacy settings need to be used to block lawyers from opposing parties from gathering information that could hurt your case.

The New York State Bar Association recently issued an opinion regarding the use of social networking sites to compile information on a client (Opinion 843), stemming from Romano v. Steelcase Inc. An attorney can legally search for and use against you, any information that can be accessed on a party’s social networking sites by either the general public or anyone registered with the networks.

An attorney cannot friend request you or take additional steps to gain access to your otherwise private information. They also cannot use a third party to gain access to your information by creating a fake profile or using someone else’s profile.

This news just further stresses the importance of ensuring your social networking sites are private. We recommend keeping a list of any social networking sites you have signed up for and checking those sites monthly to ensure your privacy settings have not changed.

Below are a list of sites that explain how to set your privacy settings on different social networking sites:

Facebook Privacy Settings

Twitter Privacy Settings

MySpace Privacy Settings

LinkedIn Privacy Settings

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