Social media is increasingly becoming a larger component of our lives.
Because more of us are preserving our daily activities on various social media platforms, there is a concern that access to those postings could have drastic effects upon the outcome of legal proceedings. Fortunately, an attorney’s subpoena power is not sufficient to produce that information, however there are procedures for attorneys to get your posted materials.
Specifically, for those who live in Pennsylvania, this area of law is controlled by 18 Pa.C.S. § 5742, which requires a court order before any service is obligated to divulge your content. To obtain an order, the user who’s information is sought must be given an opportunity to oppose the divulging of the requested information. Then, only if the requester has demonstrated specific and articulable facts to show that the information sought is relevant to the proceeding will an order be issued.
Knowing there are safeguards preventing unwarranted access to your account information is a relief, however, they should not be seen as a complete bar to anyone’s access. Certainly, if an opponent to your legal proceeding can make the case that your social media account(s) are relevant, there exists the very real likelihood that all of your information could suddenly become available, whether it was posted as “public” or not.
All of this serves as a reminder that while social media is a powerful tool, the potential for your posted content to be later used against you might make you think twice about your next post.
By John K. Hempel, Esquire