For Your Eyes Only

I just got a great picture of my friend bungee-jumping, but I probably won’t post it online.

Increasingly, information posted on social media sites is being used in personal injury actions, usually by the defendant’s insurers, as a way of refuting a plaintiff’s injury claims.

The use of social media evidence raises various privacy concerns. A picture of you posted online is arguably within the “public domain”; information that is available to the general public. There is no expectation of privacy in such materials, even if you only intended to share it with friends and family.

This applies not only to your postings, but also to materials relating to you posted by friends.  By posting pictures of others, you could inadvertently make yourself a witness in someone else’s lawsuit.  Evidence is generally only admissible in Court if it can be authenticated. In the case of evidence posted on social media, the best way to authentic it may be to call the person who took  or posted the picture, as a witness, to prove the circumstances under which the material was obtained.

How can you protect yourself? Consider changing your privacy settings, so that your profile and pictures are not readily accessible in a simple Google search.  Diligently review and remove yourself from pictures in which you were “tagged” or similarly identified. Before adding new “friends” to your account, consider if you know them well and are you comfortable with them seeing your details. Seek your friends’ consent, before posting pictures of them online.

Finally, use common sense; there are times when information need not be shared, and a bit of discretion could go a long way in sparing yourself headaches down the line.

Derek Young of Cohen Buchan Edwards LLP acts for persons injured in motor vehicle accidents.  You can contact him at 604.273.6411.