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Judge Makes Divorcing Couple Swap Facebook Passwords 332

PolygamousRanchKid writes with news of a recent court order during divorce proceedings: both parties must give their social networking passwords to the other, so that each side can snoop for evidence. From the article: "Everyone knows that evidence from social networking sites comes in handy for lawsuits and divorces. Attorneys usually get that material by visiting someone’s page or asking that they turn over evidence from their page, not by signing into their accounts. But judges are sometimes forcing litigants to hand over the passwords to their Facebook accounts. Should they be? What was the reason behind the court-authorized hacking in the Gallion case? ... While all may be ‘fair’ in love and war (and personal injuries), password exchanges like this are not kosher according to Facebook’s terms of service. I wonder if Judge Shluger is aware that his order violates Facebook’s TOS, which require that users not hand over their passwords to anyone else. Shluger did, at least, try to limit the privacy invasiveness of his order by telling the parties not to prank each other. 'Neither party shall visit the website of the other’s social network and post messages purporting to be the other,' he included in the order."
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Judge Makes Divorcing Couple Swap Facebook Passwords

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 12, 2011 @02:12PM (#38035762)

    Pretty easily, actually. People actually believe their "private" messages are private. Plus, friending someone on Facebook is something you do even before trading phone numbers these days, so you're going to get their real account if you meet them in real life in any sort of work/school related capacity.

    When I was in college (only a couple of years ago), I met a girl a couple of years younger who was in a history class I was taking to fill up some requirements. She had a fiance, but he didn't pay her enough attention and bored her, so she was looking for action on the side. Some of the steamiest messages I've ever seen on a computer screen, all via her real Facebook account. She married the guy later and still has the account. The messages are at least still in my inbox on Facebook, so I assume they're still in hers too.

  • by Lulu of the Lotus-Ea ( 3441 ) <> on Saturday November 12, 2011 @02:55PM (#38035982) Homepage

    I can actually see a reasonable discovery purpose in looking at the contents of FB pages, and that is mentioned in the article. For example, if the parties have made comments about how responsible they might be in a custodial role (something suggested in article), that could be germane.

    But FB isn't really a walled garden anymore. Now there is a quite good "export my data" functionality within it. A reasonable judge's order would simply be for exchange of that downloaded data, which will contain all the relevant background that might exist with past posts. Obviously, this is contingent on parties not deleting old posts first, but other posters have already noted how doing that would be spoilation of evidence (and if parties would do that, they could equally do so with a live account after passwords were shared).

    I do recognize that the article mentioned "dating sites" too. Those sites may still be walled gardens, and may well not provide easy data export capabilities. For those, the only way to look at relevant posts/emails/profiles/etc. might indeed be password sharing. Of course, who knows what general data policies those sites have--i.e. are messages automatically deleted after N days, and archives inaccessible to users? Access to password may or may not reveal the full history of site usage.

  • Re:Terms of Service (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @03:40PM (#38036326)

    The court order isn't directed or served to Facebook.

    True. They couldn't be charged with failing to comply with a court order. But if they deleted the account knowing that it's contents were subject to a court order they could certainly be charged with destruction of evidence, which is a felony.

  • Re:One question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @03:43PM (#38036344) Journal
    Think again []
  • Re:Terms of Service (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @05:18PM (#38036874)
    Once the Judge has ruled that they must share passwords in order to allow the other side to look for evidence any attempt to prevent the other side from looking at what is there will be considered an attempt to destroy evidence. For example, if the court orders me to turn over papers to another party and I shred them instead, it is considered destruction of evidence (even if later someone produces copies of those papers that show that there was no evidence in them).
    Yes the legal pairing of marriage has implications regarding the sharing of intellectual property, just like it has implications regarding the sharing of physical property, and in much the same way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:16PM (#38037490)

    Not either poster, but it seems like when you use LinkedIn or similar services, you are creating implicit pressure for other job seekers to to subject themselves to private companies largely intent on exploitation. So when you use LinkedIn, you harm the rest of the job force. Thankfully the harm is slight thus far, but one can imagine a future where it becomes impossible to get certain kinds of jobs without subjugation to a corporation you vehemently oppose.

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer