Private Facebook Posts May Not Be So Private

This is not Mark Zuckerberg trying to extract a few more cents out of you by pushing more ads to you – in fact, Facebook really doesn’t even have much of a say in this.  It is not even a Google thing.

Still, it is useful to understand.

In the case of a Manhattan woman who was disabled in a horseback riding accident, the courts have ruled back and forth.

The woman is blaming the trainer and horse owner for fitting the horse with a defective stirrup.  The case is unusual because usually equine trainers have no liability for accidents, based on the law.  In this case, the rider, who suffered brain and spinal injuries, is claiming negligence.

The trial court ruled that the woman had to provide both Facebook posts and photos from both before and after the accident during discovery.  The trainer is trying, I assume, to determine if the disabilities prevented her from doing the things that she did before the accident and turned her into a recluse, which is what she is claiming.

The trial court did exclude any nude pictures from having to be disclosed.

But then the appeals court reversed the trial court and said that she did not have to produce that information.

But now the full appeals court, by a vote of 7-0, said that the trial court was correct and that the information did have to be produced.  This court is the state’s highest court, so it is not clear if there is any further appeal avenue available.

The appeals court did acknowledge that the posts were private, but said that did not allow her to avoid discovery.

For users, there is a warning here.  Do not assume that anything that you post online, even if you think it might be private, is really private.  I am sure that this woman did not think about the implications of her Facebook posts during a trial.

But there is a simple answer – if you want it to be private, do not post it.  Don’t even put in on Google photos or Microsoft One Drive.  If you make it accessible to an Internet provider, it is likely disclose-able.

Information for this post came from Reuters.

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