There are not (yet) many cases dealing with the discovery of litigants’ social networking information. Thus, whenever a court addresses the issue, it becomes newsworthy.
Romano v. Steelcase Inc. (N.Y. 9/21/10) [pdf] is a personal injury case. The defendant claimed that information the plaintiff posted on her Facebook and MySpace pages was inconsistent with her claim regarding the nature and extent of her injuries. The court disagreed with the plaintiff’s argument that she had any expectation of privacy what she posted on social networking sites:
Thus, when Plaintiff created her Facebook and MySpace accounts, she consented to the fact that her personal information would be shared with others, notwithstanding her privacy settings. Indeed, that is the very nature and purpose of these social networking sites else they would cease to exist. Since Plaintiff knew that her information may become publicly available, she cannot now claim that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. As recently set forth by commentators regarding privacy and social networking sites, given the millions of users, “[i]n this environment, privacy is no longer grounded in reasonable expectations, but rather in some theoretical protocol better known as wishful thinking.”
It is becoming increasingly more difficult to convince courts that individuals have any privacy expectations in social networking information. Instead, these discovery disputes turn on issues of relevancy—whether the information bears on any issue in the case. In cases involving injuries (whether physical or emotional, and including employment cases), plaintiffs will have a very hard time shielding this type of information from discovery.
[Hat tip: Delaware Employment Law Blog]