With all of the self-written “privacy disclaimers” popping up all over social media channels, there has been a lot of debate about how the use of social media outlets coincides with users’ expectations when it comes to privacy. But what about legal cases? Can courts use information you post on your personal social accounts to prove something you did or didn’t do?
A recent related case brings this top of mind, and can show you what you may expect when it comes to your social media accounts and the law.
Can you use social media posts and comments as evidence?
There was recently a case is Florida where Maria Nucci – employed by Target Corp – fell and alleged that she suffered from severe slip-and-fall at work. After the fall, Mucci was deposed and filed a law suit against the company for the harm she allegedly suffered from the fall. Target requested access to Nucci’s Facebook page because they felt the pictures she was posting were directly related to the law suit as they would prove evidence as to what her physical and mental condition was during her deposition. A couple days after she objected to releasing posted images, over thirty pictures vanished from her Facebook page. Sound a little strange?
The three-judge panel thought the photos were extremely relevant in this case, especially after it was proven that Nucci was highly exaggerating her injuries based on video footage of her on a Target surveillance camera captured after the incident. The court granted Target’s request for the photos, but Nucci argued the privacy setting on Facebook gave her expectation of privacy from the public accessing her page without her permission. That didn’t work so well.
Social Media and Privacy Expectations
The judges acknowledged that when a user signs up for Facebook, they understand that Facebook explicitly does not guarantee privacy, and they must acknowledge that their personal information may be shared with others when they’re signing up for an account. This fact weakened Nucci’s argument immensely, and she was ordered to produce copies of pictures she had uploaded to social media sites and on her cell phone for the past two years.
Once it’s out there, it’s out there.
Just because social accounts guarantee privacy from the general public doesn’t mean images and other content posted can’t be used as evidence in a legal case when requested. Even if photos are deleted, it’s important to know that once something has been posted, it’s out there for anyone to see – and it may be used against you if you should ever are involved in a legal case.
Our team of attorneys are available to answer any questions you might have about your legal rights. We’re happy to help you navigate your way through your case.
Image courtesy of reynermedia/flickr.