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Court Demands Private Facebook Data 113

Posted by kdawson
from the judge-is-your-new-friend dept.
Defeat Globalism writes in with a Canadian court decision that has ordered a man suing over injuries from a car accident to answer questions about content on his private "friends only" Facebook page. "Lawyers for Janice Roman, the defendant in the lawsuit, believe information posted on John Leduc's private Facebook site — normally accessible only to his approved 'friends' — may be relevant to his claim an accident in Lindsay in 2004 lessened his enjoyment of life. As a result of the ruling by Justice David Brown of Ontario's Superior Court of Justice, Leduc must now submit to cross-examination by Roman's lawyers about what his Facebook page contains. Brown's Feb. 20 ruling also makes clear that lawyers must now explain to their clients 'in appropriate cases' that postings on Facebook or other networking sites — such as MySpace, LinkedIn and even blogs — may be relevant to allegations in a lawsuit, said Tariq Remtulla, a Toronto lawyer who has been following the issue."
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Court Demands Private Facebook Data

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  • Discovery (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kirijini (214824) <kirijini@nOspam.yahoo.com> on Saturday March 14, 2009 @11:00PM (#27197419)

    Duh!

    Its called discovery.

    I don't know about canadian laws, but in the US, any documents relevant to a lawsuit can be sought a party to the suit, even from non-parties from facebook, and this can be backed up by a court with a subpoena.

    Its all in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

    F.R.C.P. 26(b)(1): "Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense"

    F.R.C.P. 34(1)(a): "A party may serve on any other party a request within the scope of Rule 26(b) ... to produce ... any designated documents or electronically stored information"

    F.R.C.P. 45 covers subpeonas.

    Basically, the rules are: if its relevant to the suit, and not privileged (like spousal privilege or 5th amendment self incrimination rights), it can be sought by a party. Even private letters to friends. That this information was published to friends on an online service probably means that any privilege the material had was waived.

    If you have evidence, you may be compelled to produce it. This shouldn't shock anybody - our justice system won't work without it. Whether or not it's "private" doesn't matter except as provided in the rules or protected by law as "privileged" material.

    Finally - its right there in the facebook privacy policy: "We may be required to disclose user information pursuant to lawful requests, such as subpoenas or court orders, or in compliance with applicable laws."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14, 2009 @11:03PM (#27197429)

    From what I understood from this article, and a surprisingly poorly written one for a newspaper imo

    This is the Toronto Star. While it happens to be the largest newspaper in Canada by circulation, this is only because Toronto is the largest city.

    The Star is a left-wing paper that has been bleeding money for years. The Star has been a dedicated supporter of the Liberal party for years. The only reason the Star hasn't gone bankrupt is they also own Harlequin Enterprises, which publishes trashy romantic fiction.

  • by debrain (29228) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @11:28PM (#27197543) Journal

    The Rules of Civil Procedure [canlii.org] govern this case. There's nothing new about this case, per se. Anything published on Facebook is a relevant document, and the laws of Ontario oblige disclosure (even if that document was private, notwithstanding rare exceptions for such as solicitor-client privilege) by the person with control over it.

    The relevant section governing documentary discovery is Rule 30. Rule 30.01 defines "document", and 30.02 places an obligation on a party to make appropriate disclosure of all relevant documents. The curious can read more about a report on electronic discovery in the Ontario Bar Association's guidelines (pdf) [oba.org] (see also OBA "e-discovery" [oba.org]), and a e-Discovery web-site [umontreal.ca].

    I've reproduced cited excerpts of Rule 30, here:

    RULE 30 - DISCOVERY OF DOCUMENTS

    INTERPRETATION
    30.01 (1) In rules 30.02 to 30.11,
    (a) "document" includes a sound recording, videotape, film, photograph, chart, graph, map, plan, survey, book of account, and data and information in electronic form; and
    (b) a document shall be deemed to be in a party's power if that party is entitled to obtain the original document or a copy of it and the party seeking it is not so entitled.

    SCOPE OF DOCUMENTARY DISCOVERY
    Disclosure
    30.02 (1) Every document relating to any matter in issue in an action that is or has been in the possession, control or power of a party to the action shall be disclosed as provided in rules 30.03 to 30.10, whether or not privilege is claimed in respect of the document.

    There are some interesting scenarios related to Sedona obligations, namely the obligation to not destroy or delete electronic documents once a party has been advised of the potential relevance of certain electronic documents.

  • Re:Discovery (Score:4, Informative)

    by MicktheMech (697533) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @12:00AM (#27197691) Homepage
    I agree, this seems very normal. It might have caught my ire if they tried getting the data from a third party (e.g. Facebook), but they're going through a party to the action with the discovery process. The system is working as intended. Nothing to see here, move along.
  • Re:Ya well (Score:3, Informative)

    by nextekcarl (1402899) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @12:11AM (#27197729)

    Yeah, and there have been cases about just this already (maybe not Canada, but here in the US) from what I recall. I think it was decided (IIRC) that once it that once it hits the curb it becomes fair game. Of course, IANAL.

  • Re:Discovery (Score:3, Informative)

    by canajin56 (660655) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:19AM (#27198317)

    Canada does have a 5th amendment equivalent. You cannot be compelled to testify at your own trial, at least not to anything related to the charge. However, if issued a subpoena for somebody else's trial, you must give testimony, even if it implicates you in a crime. That testimony cannot be used against you in another trial though. Unless its a trial for perjury, of course.

    But this person is not being charged with a crime. And he won't be, not unless something on his facebook page show's he's outright lying under oath. What it might do is look bad. But even in the states I don't think the 5th protects you from being compelled to give testimony that might damage your civil case! "You say you are miserable all the time" "yes" "Here you are dancing in a youtube video. where you miserable then?" "FIFTH!" I don't think so...

  • Re:Ya well (Score:3, Informative)

    by icebike (68054) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @04:17AM (#27198471)

    > In the case of a private key, the immunity is extended only to the content of the key itself.

    Nope, thats far too narrow.

    If you are given immunity it will be transactional immunity or Use immunity.

    Transactional means the testimony and any evidence obtained via the testimony can't be uses in THIS proceeding.

    Use immunity means it can be used against you at ALL for any future proceedings.

    It has never been suggested (except by you) that the actual digits of the key are the only thing immunized, thats just totally bogus. Immunity covers the actual testimony and any evidence derived or developed from that testimony.

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