While social media has ingrained itself into our everyday lives, many people make that decision to share details about themselves that may be best un-written or un-photographed (ahem), particularly if you happen to be involved in a lawsuit. Putting too much personal information ‘out there’ for the world to see will not only lose you some eye-rolling followers and friends, it could come back to haunt you in a courtroom.
There’s a fascinating report prepared by Field LLP in Edmonton, Alberta called, Social Media and Civil Litigation. Prepared for the Canadian Legal Conference in August, 2014, the researchers searched the Quicklaw database to determine the number of times that social media sites were mentioned in cases. They discovered Facebook and Twitter were referenced in 1,573 and 88 (respectively) cases between June 2007 and July 2014. This compares to a similar case search from 2007 to 2010 that showed the two websites sites were referenced in 230 and 9 cases.
In one particular case (Crookes v. Newton2) Abella J. wrote: “A reputation can be destroyed in the click of a mouse, an anonymous email or an ill-timed Tweet.”
Your reputation is not the only thing at stake. Your credibility as a plaintiff, defendant, and/or witness can be seriously compromised by posting your views, activities, and photos online. Regardless of your security settings on social media sites, ‘friends’ of friends can find you online and these curious investigators could be working for insurance companies or opposing counsel. If you’ve ever questioned the reality of Big Brother, the power of the Internet should wipe away any doubts. And, if you don’t think your online profiles could possibly be used in a case, the Field LLP report should convince everyone to think again.
“The law in Canada is now clear that evidence obtained from social media sources is presumptively admissible. The law is also clear that social media accounts, including postings and photos, are considered documents or records that must be produced during the discovery process if they contain relevant and material information. In other words, social media records are admissible and producible, subject to the standard principles of evidence.”
This relatively new phenomenon does not only apply to personal injury cases. Social media evidence is used in matrimonial, custodial, employment, and criminal cases. Even if you do your best to keep your personal information offline, it’s not quite as easy as you think. Google your name and the city where you live now and the cities you’ve lived in the past. There’s a pretty good chance that snippets of your life are captured somewhere online.