Your Facebook Profile - Just You and 845 Million of Your Closest Friends
Are you on Facebook? Of course you are! And just how much of yourself have you revealed to the world on Facebook? Are you crazy!?!?!?
Facebook revealed impressive statistics about its growing and active userbase. There are 845 million members, making it essentially the 3rd largest country on earth behind China and India. But it gets disconcerting from there: more than half of the members, or 483 million, return to the site EVERY DAY. These hundreds of millions of users have shared more than 100 petabytes (100 quadrillion bytes) of photos and videos with Facebook. The site produces an average of 2.7 billion "likes" and comments A DAY.
Everyone loves Facebook, especially Identity thieves, advertisers and marketers, Phishing experts, hackers, and any self serving of malicious group, individual or corporate entity that seeks to use you and your information.
We should know! Let's get down to business. As attorneys, we love Facebook because it is an open book of a person's life. As such, the average person posts things that should never see the light of day and often will incriminate if introduced as evidence in a court of law.
Facebook is an Open Book in Open Court
Under the sufficiency standard, evidence is admissible if it is sufficient for a reasonable jury to decide it is what it is claimed to be. Although various Appellate Courts have not yet spelled out what steps must be taken to authenticate such evidence, lawyers now regularly call in social media providers, sometimes at the state's expense, to introduce evidence.
Recent plaintiffs increasingly find themselves slapped with evidence from social networking sites that endanger or even completely derail their cases, despite attempts to argue that such information is protected or allegedly falsified on their personal pages.
We've written before about the growing trend of lawyers mining social media sites for evidence against opposing parties, and recent court decisions have affirmed the absolute unprivileged nature of said information.
For instance, both parties to a case asked a district court in Pennsylvania last month to conduct a review of the plaintiff's social networking profiles to determine what was subject to discovery.
The court proceeded to identify relevant information, such as "photographs and comments suggesting he may have recently ridden a mule," which the court thought the defense could use to argue against the plaintiff's claims that a car accident had left him physically and psychologically injured.
The Daily Business Review reported recently on a divorce settlement case in which the wife claimed car accident injuries (and resultant surgery) had left her unable to work, thereby justifying large, monthly alimony payments.
Her spouse countered with evidence from her Facebook and MySpace accounts detailing her video of active belly dancing exploits four years after the surgery. The judge accepted and ultimately used the wife's own video to deny her the lifetime monthly support checks she sought from her ex-husband.
So next time you post a status update or Tweet a sentence into the World Wide Web, first take a second to think if you have any pending lawsuits -- and if so, ask yourself if you'd be okay with that update appearing in a court of law.
Please understand, there is no reason why information published on social media sites should be especially private. If a court can demand that it see and use a private letter, or hear details of a private conversation, it is perfectly natural that it be able to demand to see what you post on your Facebook page.
What, exactly, are the court's rules, then? With exceptions for communications with a lawyer, a court can demand to see private material - including letters, emails, diaries - if it is relevant to the case. The litigation rules broadly define "documents", meaning that electronic documents which can be demanded can include instant messages and content from social networking sites. Most businesses must keep any and all emails. Facebook may not be far behind. So, if you have your behind digitally videoed and uploaded to Facebook, you could see it presented in court.
Now that we have your full and undivided attention, let's move on to educate you a bit more:
Members on Facebook share intimate details about their personal lives. Most do not realize how easy it is for their private photos, opinions, relationships, and activities to be observed by outside parties. The CIA, attorneys, schools, insurance agents and employers have all been known to use Facebook as a tool to judge your character and activity among other things. Many have been fired (sometimes illegally) or even expelled from school due to content on their Facebook page. Here is how your information can be used against you, and the steps you can take to prevent this.
How lawyers, Insurance Agents, Employers, and School Officials Lookup your Private Information on Facebook
Law firms, from personal injury attorneys investigating a car accident to divorce and trial lawyers have admitted to using facebook to collect such information asreligious beliefs, drug and alcohol use, and conversations with friends. Lawyers investigating potential jurors on Facebook is now common, the Wall Street Journal reports. One attorney openly admitted this while defending a priest on sexual abuse charges. He researched jury candidates' pages to get a feel of how devout they were and explains, "It's a waterfall of information, compared to the pinhole view you used to get."
If you were injured in a car accident, an attorney or insurance agent might research if you have a history of drinking, if you were already complaining of injuries or back pain, if you are a smoker, and your overall level of maturity. Based on this information, lawyers could make an attempt in court to show the accident was due to your wild and irresponsible demeanor, that your medical bills are partly your fault because you are a smoker and are not making an effort to heal, or he could even prove that you wereusing your cell phone to post on Facebook while driving.
HOW SCHOOL ADMINISTATORS, PROFESSORS, AND EMPLOYERS JUDGE YOU ONLINE:
More than 53% of employers research potential job candidates on social networks such as Facebook.
76% of college students may be using facebook in a manner that will tarnish their opportunities for a job after graduation.
Once you have the job or are in the school of your dreams, employees and students alike have gotten fired for "inappropriate" photos and posts on their Facebook pages. Your Facebook page now reflects the interests of your school or employer. No, it is no longer private.
It is imperative to secure your social media profiles, if not permanently, at least when applying for a job or university, after a car accident, or before a lawsuit.
Hey! Here is the Solution to your Facebook woes: Disappear!
To ensure your privacy and safety on Facebook, make the following choices below:
To disappear from Search Results - most users do not know that they can do this, and it will make you much harder to find to those not in your network of friends or school. Go to Privacy Settings - > Search Visibility - > and select Only Friends. One the same page, be sure to also uncheck the box:"Create a public search listing for me and submit it for search engine indexing" for those searching for you on Google.
Eliminate FRIENDS AND PHOTOS:
In your Profile Privacy Page - > Photos Tagged of You - > select Customize - > select Only Me andNone of My Networks. You can add a certain group of friends under the box Some Friends. Also, go to the Photos Privacy Page to manually change privacy of each of your photo albums.
Delete All Friends That You Do Not Personally Know
Be sure to never accept friend requests from people you've never met. Even if they are friends on Facebook with someone you know, this is a well known tactic insurance agents, lawyers, and recruiters use to trick you into thinking you might know them too, so check with your friend first.
Choose your friends wisely. If privacy concerns center around a heated divorce case, immediately delete or block your spouse and all mutual friends who may give your spouse or the lawyers access to your profile.
Eliminate WALL POSTS, INTERESTS, ETC:
In your Profile Privacy Settings page you can also disable friends from writing on your wall with the section called Wall Posts, to ensure inappropriate content isn't made public without your approval. Be sure to also make your contact info private, except for close friends. To make your friendships private, so strangers can't see who your friends are and possibly contact them or friend them in order to see your information, navigate to the Friends setting and privatize that as well.
You may also want to delete all inappropriate applications such as quizzes and any groups, interests, or events you are associated with that will not reflect highly of you. As long as all your privacy settings are maximized, and you do not accept any friend requests from strangers, you should be able to keep your profile without deleting any content, save your profile picture, which should always be appropriate and PG.
Last but not least, sign up for Google alerts for your name, so whenever someone posts material about you, you can ask for it to be removed or edited.
Now that you know, please be responsible for yourself.
This information has been brought to you by Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys 949-203-3814 or Best Attorney.com