Internet Law

Trial Courts Yet to Find Consistency in 'Facebook Race'

, The Legal Intelligencer


Social Media Mashup

The judge denied requests to gain access to Simms' Facebook and MySpace pages under the same line of reasoning, but offered leeway to the defendant to provide the "factual predicate necessary for requesting non-public access to these accounts."

Right to Privacy?

In the Monroe County case from last month, Court of Common Pleas Judge David J. Williamson didn't appear to require a finding on a public page in order to allow discovery.

Williamson's two-page order offers little on the facts of Mazzarella v. Mount Airy #1, or the details of his rationale, but the judge nonetheless made clear his views on the expectation of privacy on social media platforms.

He said: "Those who elect to use social media, and place things on the Internet for viewing, sharing and use with others, waive an expectation of privacy," Williamson said. "At this point, the information requested is not a privacy violation."

Court filings from both sides appear to indicate that the threshold public showing did not directly affect the judge's decision.

In plaintiff Donna M. Mazzarella's brief opposing the casino's motion to compel, she noted the defendant casino had not provided the court with any indication that something on Mazzarella's public page would lead to anything relevant in the private sphere.

Wilkes-Barre attorney John A. Bednarz Jr., representing Mazzarella, wrote in the brief that Mount Airy had not alleged that anything on the public part of Mazzarella's Facebook page would indicate the relevance of something behind the walls of her privacy settings.

Bednarz said the mere existence of a party's Facebook page does not justify discovery sought.

Reached for comment, Bednarz said, "I felt that it's either party's burden, even if it's a plaintiff asking for it, that there's a predicate that you have to meet. There was nothing in this case that was alleged at all. Other than 'we want to see it.'"

Bednarz said another concern he had with turning over the information was that, technically, it's a violation of Facebook's rules and policies to give someone else your login information.

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