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Facebook Privacy Overruled…

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I've always said, don't post online what you don't want everyone to know…

In a recent Toronto Star article, they report about how the courts ruled that a man must allow lawyers access to his private profile on Facebook. He had even used Facebook's privacy controls to hide his profile, including photos, info, etc. from public view and only allowed his Facebook "friends" to view his profile… But even still, the courts have ruled that the information on his Facebook profile could be relevant to establishing details about his life, so he must share his profile with lawyers. Even Facebook's privacy controls couldn't help this guy!

Here are some highlights from the article:

Facebook user poked – by the courts

Judge rules man must divulge what he's posted on private social website

Chatting with "friends" on social networking sites could have legal implications and turn Facebook users into their own worst enemies.

In a precedent-setting decision, a Toronto judge has ordered a man suing over injuries from a car accident to answer questions about content on his Facebook page that is off limits to the public.

Lawyers for Janice Roman, the defendant in the lawsuit, believe information posted on John Leduc's private Facebook site – normally accessible only to his approved "friends" – may be relevant to his claim an accident in Lindsay in 2004 lessened his enjoyment of life.

As a result of the ruling by Justice David Brown of Ontario's Superior Court of Justice, Leduc must now submit to cross-examination by Roman's lawyers about what his Facebook page contains.

Brown's Feb. 20 ruling also makes clear that lawyers must now explain to their clients "in appropriate cases" that postings on Facebook or other networking sites – such as MySpace, LinkedIn and even blogs – may be relevant to allegations in a lawsuit, said Tariq Remtulla, a Toronto lawyer who has been following the issue. This could easily apply in a personal injury case in which a litigant claims his or her quality of life has been affected, Remtulla said.

"If you are alleging that, as a result of an accident, you have not been able to enjoy life the same way and there is a photo taken after the accident showing you skiing or exercising … that could be relevant," the civil litigation and intellectual property lawyer said in an interview yesterday.

What's on Facebook might also matter in insurance cases or family law cases where there's a dispute over custody, Remtulla suggested. Photos, for example, could reveal something about a parent's living conditions.

[…]

Leduc chose to limit access to his site, posting only his name and picture on his public profile.

Roman's lawyers found out about his Facebook page in 2007. When they could not get access to it, they went to court, asking that he be ordered to produce its content.

"Facebook profiles […] enable users to construct personal networks or communities of 'friends' with whom they can share information about themselves, and on which 'friends' can post information about the user," […] A court can infer that Leduc's Facebook site "likely contains some content relevant to the issue of how Mr. Leduc has been able to lead his life since the accident," Brown said.

Brown said Leduc can't "hide behind self-set privacy controls" on a website that's all about telling others about one's life.

So there you have it. Don't post anything on Facebook, (or anywhere else for that matter), that you don't want everyone to see. Forget privacy controls, they can't help you…

As for me, I take a different approach to my online presence. By making sure my own content ranks high on search engines, cross-linking information, allowing full access to the public, etc., I am able to "control" what information is readily available about me… Anything else about me is hard to find, if not impossible. ;-) But that's me.

I'm surprised this isn't a bigger story in the news though. It would sure make people think twice about what they share on Facebook! (Not that I can see people actually changing their Facebook habits anytime soon though.)