Avoid Legal Pitfalls of Facebook’s ‘Year in Review’
In mid-December, Facebook introduced its “Year in Review” feature that allows users, with the click of one button, to publish highlights from their posts, pictures, and “life events” for the past year.
Before you click “share,” consider our own look back at the implications of posting on Facebook when you’re involved in sticky situations.
The feature collects and shares in reverse chronological order your “top” 20 stories from 2012. You cannot choose what those 20 stories are: Facebook’s algorhythms do it for you.
Thus the danger: if you marked some stories as viewable by only certain groups, but they ended up getting a lot of hits or comments, they could show up in your top 20 stories. Hit “share,” and you’ve defeated the attempt to post to a limited audience.
Some Facebook users were alarmed to see posts in their Year in Review, ready to publish to the world, that they thought were posted in private or secret groups.
“This feature displayed personal medical photos from my private secret health group,” wrote Carol Wright, a California Facebook user, in the site’s Community Forum on its Help Center. “I surely will not SHARE this at all. What a dangerous concept.”
Remember that potential employers are likely able to find you on Facebook. And if you’re looking for a job, you can bet they will try to look you up. Almost 75 percent of hiring managers polled by Jobvite say they check candidates’ social profiles, and almost half say they do it even if the candidate doesn’t provide the links.
Employers have fired employees for “liking” the wrong person, have demanded – and received – access to the social media accounts of employees who’ve sued them for sexual harassment, and have attempted to put in place policies allowing them to demand passwords to employees’ social media accounts.
What makes you think they won’t check your “Year in Review” to find out everything from how bad your grammar is to whether you are a drug user?
Family Law/Divorce Issues
If you’re involved in a domestic dispute, divorce, custody case or alimony fight, remember that Facebook is not the place to air your grievances against your ex. As one judge recently and memorably wrote, “If all of this information was contained on pages filed in [an] ‘Everything About Me’ folder, it would need to be produced” in court.
“Should the outcome be different because it is on one’s Facebook account?” asked the judge. He and most others are ruling with a resounding “no.”
Jurors, beware: In several publicized cases over the last year, jurors have gotten in very hot water with judges after using Facebook during trials they were deciding. You can be fined or even jailed for contempt of court – violating a judge’s order not to talk about the case, even on Facebook. (That counts as talking.)
California even went so far as to pass a law forbidding jurors from using social media to find out or talk about a case they are hearing.
Criminal Law Issues
Finally, if you’re involved in any way with the criminal justice system, remember that just about everything you post on Facebook can be used against you – whether it’s to friend you in order to learn about your crime, catch you in the first place, prove you committed a crime, or use your friends to view your more selective posts.
The bottom line: Indulge in your Facebook retrospective with care, since you’re being given another chance to share information you might initially have thought was private.