Here’s what you need to know about Facebook and similar social media sites: they’re not private. You can set your privacy settings to whatever you want—if you end up in litigation over anything, your Facebook is likely to become an open book. Courts are not required to honor your “privacy settings,” and in several recent cases, courts have ordered the production of Facebook material and even Facebook passwords. Why? Because people put all kinds of things on Facebook, including things which can be used and sometimes distorted by the other side in litigation: “Do you claim to have limited mobility? Then, what about this photo of you dancing?” We recently handled an assault case where the defendant bragged that he had hit a girl and gotten away with it. His Facebook made our job considerably easier.
If you approach social media sites as if everything you write will be printed in the newspaper, you’ll have a close approximation of what your social media privacy actually is. In a future post, we’ll talk about the libel risks of telling all those “friends” what you really think of them.