Facebook and other social networks are public forums – even if your profile is set to private.
Facebook now has over a billion active users, and an increasing number of them are facing legal problems as a result of the info they share with their online “friends.” Three common areas of legal concern are (1) employment matters, (2) family law disputes, and (3) personal injury cases.
The number of people fired or not hired due to Facebook is on the rise. Almost half of all employers use social networks to screen job candidates. Moreover, Louisiana is an “employment-at-will” state, meaning that your employer may usually fire, suspend, or discipline you for any reason except a few illegal grounds (race, gender, whistle-blowing, etc.). So, if you complain about your boss on Facebook, or if you post your picture of tailgating at the LSU game after calling in sick, he or she may fire you.
Use of Facebook information in court cases is increasing due to lawyers mining online profiles for evidence. You may have postings that could hurt your case, even if they were shared by someone other than you. The most common area of Facebook evidence is family law, namely divorce and child custody proceedings. Imagine a defendant who claims to be a loyal husband and great father, yet his future ex-wife’s lawyer found barroom photos on Facebook that show him carousing with women when he claimed he was watching the kids! Such pictures may be admissible at trial.
Facebook photos or posts can likewise doom a personal injury case. Consider the auto accident plaintiff who claims a back injury prevents him from working or enjoying physical activities, only to find the opposing insurance company’s attorney has Facebook photos of the plaintiff water-skiing and horseback riding! Again, those photos could be used in court.
What you post can even come into play after your case settles. The daughter of a plaintiff in an age-discrimination lawsuit cost her father an $80,000 settlement. She made a Facebook post that discussed specifics of the case, violating the standard confidentiality clause that was part of the settlement. Some of her “friends” leaked the post. The opposing lawyers used her mistake to appeal the decision and won. Her father lost the $80,000 settlement.
Many Facebook users have a false sense of security that only their approved “friends” will see the information they post. However, many people do not set their security levels to the highest settings. Also, no one can stop your “friends” from sharing the information with others.
Everything you do online leaves an electronic trail that can be difficult, or sometimes impossible, to erase. Think about this before you post! When involved in legal proceedings, don’t disclose anything about your case on social media. It’s not worth it.