Facebook and Right to Privacy

Most of us use Facebook or other forms of social networking.  We put up cute pictures of ourselves, our pets and our family members.  Most of us even go through the trouble of marking some of our postings private in the hopes that they don’t fall into the wrong hands.  However, does private really mean private?

According to a decision by the New York Appeals court on October 27, 2011, Paterson v. Turner Construction, an employer does not have the right to see all that is on an employee’s Facebook account, but not because it’s private, because the demand by counsel was not specific enough when making demands for production in order to build the case.

The postings on plaintiff’s online Facebook account, if relevant, are not shielded from discovery merely because plaintiff used the service’s privacy settings to restrict access (Romano v Steelcase Inc., 30 Misc.3d 426, 433-434 [2010]), just as relevant matter from a personal diary is discoverable (see Faragiano v Town of Concord, 294 A.D.2d 893, 894 [2002]).

It appears that when you sign up for Facebook you sign an agreement that states that although you may mark your documents private the chance of them coming into the public domain is not unforsseable.

In a 1967 case of Katz v. United States of America the court opined that fourth Amendment’s right to privacy “protects people not places.”  Keep in mind that the internet is a place and as such it is not protected by the Fourt Amendment’s Right to Privacy according to the Katz court.

As paralegals we all know what it’s like to draft a demand for discovery.  Sometimes you just know that if you can get your hands on such and such document you will be able to find what you need.  You go ahead and request everything under the sun.  Well, here it appears that the court is saying that, although you may have the right to the discovery you are requesting, make sure you are not going on a fishing expedition.  Make sure you know what you’re looking for and that you have a reason to request what you’re requesting.  Fishing expeditions are burdensome to everyone and no one wants to waste time going through documents that will lead to absolutely nothing.

So, for us paralegals there are two things to take away from this decision:  One in my opinion is more a professional matter and the other is more of a personal matter;

  1. Make sure that when you are drafting your demand for production of documents you know why you’re asking and that what you’re asking for will provide you with the information you are seeking.  Formulate your requests in a manner that will make allow your adversary to provide you with the documents you need without wasting yours and your adversary’s time; and on a personal note;
  2. Remember that just because you post something on the internet and marke it private – Privacy is really not privacy.  Once in the public domain (internet) it becomes public whether or not you set up your privacy settings.

Just as a reminder, I am not an attorney.  The above are just my opinions and my review of the court’s decision.  Nothing in this article or any of the articles by The Paralegal (me) should be construed as legal advice.

And on that note, I hope you enjoy my articles and take a minute to subscribe and check out the other blogs I read on a regular basis.  Let me know what you think.  I really enjoy reading your comments and try to respond to all of them so why don’t we have a chat?

Social Network and the Courts

Who has not heard of the movie Social Network? Social Network is the story behind Facebook and the rise to fame of Mark Zuckerberg.

In 2003, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, students at Harvard and Olympic rowing twins, hired Mark Zuckerberg, another student at Harvard, to code a site they eventually ConnectU.   According to Tyler and Cameron, ConnectU was going to be the next big thing had Mark Zuckerberg not turned their idea into what is now known as Facebook and kept them out of the “loop.”

The Winkelvosses, or as Mark Zuckerberg referred to them in the movie “the Winkelvi,” (my second most favorite part in the movie, second to my favorite which is the deposition clip) sued Facebook and signed a settlement agreement for $65 million dollars in 2008 ($20 million in cash and $45 million worth of stock valued at $36.00 per share). Facebook agreed to the settlement to put an end to the litigation. However, it did not admit to any wrongdoing on the part of Mark Zuckerberg. It appears that earlier this year the Wilkelvoss twins appealed the settlement to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after District Court denied such request.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote the opinion of the court  “At some point litigation must come to an end. That point has now been reached.”

I for one am glad.  To tell you the truth I never thought the original suit had any merit.  After seeing the movie, and yes, I do realize that a movie is not real life and that the director and the writers always take some liberties.  However, I choose to believe that what happened was not theft but competition.  Someone took someone’s idea and made it better.   Nothing wrong with that or is there?

Things have been busy here at The_Paralegal

I thought I would write a short note to you, my subscribers/readers.

I have been busy with lots of ideas recently running through my head and I am finally going to put them into motion.  Let’s see where they all bring us.  Why wait until the first of the year to start a list of things you want to accomplish?  Here is a list of things that The Paralegal is planning:

1)  The first thing I have done was create a Facebook page for The Paralegal.  Please go and keep me company by becoming a friend.  The plan is to keep you annoyingly (is that a word?) updated on what is going on in my day-to-day as well as what I am planning for the blog.

Now we have 4 ways to keep in touch, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and this blog.  I’m sure I’ll think of other ways.

2)  I am working on starting a podcast for The Paralegal.  This will take a little bit of time, since I really have no idea how to even start one. I’m starting now to figure out what and how to do it.  Maybe you can use Facebook and Twitter to comment what you would like to hear in the podcast.  I want to keep it fresh and relevant so your input is really important.  We can create this together.

3)  Develop a seminar series.  This is an extremely ambitious goal for me but I think we all need a goal that will really make us step out of our comfort zones.  This is mine for the year 2011.  I am determined to be exactly what you need me to be, a mentor, a teacher and a friend.

I know that with your help I will be able to accomplish all these goals and then some.  So, if you still haven’t had enough of me, go and friend me on Facebook, go and follow me on Twitter and sign up for this blog.  The podcast?  Well, that I’ll have to learn a bit more but I promise that I will keep you posted as to the progress and I will let you know when I publish the first episode.  I’m counting on you all to keep me honest and help me achieve my goals.

Thank you so much for reading this blog and allowing me to come into your lives one blog at a time.


Ana Pierro, The Paralegal

How I use my iPad

My iPad has recently become my new obsession.  I cannot get on the train without it and I’m sure in the summer, while on vacation, I won’t be able to go to the beach or the pool without bringing it along.  I’m wondering if my husband is going to start getting jealous.  In order to appease him we got him his own shiny black iPad (his without 3G, since he doesn’t go more than a few minutes without internet access).  Gosh I can’t wait until New Jersey Transit gets free WiFi on their trains.

So, how do I use this great Steve Jobs’ invention, you ask?  Millions of ways.

  1. I read the WSJ, NY Times, Bloomberg, Legal Periodicals.  There is a great free app  for the WSJ you can buy in the AppStore and for $17.00 per month you can download the daily content of the Journal.  It gets updated every time there is some news update.  If you don’t have the 3G version of the iPad you can download it at home before you leave the house to go to the work and you can then read the paper just as if you bought the paper version.  The New York Times and Bloomberg are free applications with no monthly charge and the legal periodicals normally have a charge and I read those on the Internet.
  2. Vizio.  I promised myself a few months ago that I would go green.  I can’t stand all the magazines laying around the house and all the paper that gets wasted and thrown out every week in the recycling bin.  Who knows what they are doing with it? Zinio is another application for the iPad and iPhone that you can download for free and purchase most of the magazines you currently read in paper version.  You can then either save them or discard them once you are done with them.
  3. Social Networking. Although there is no application for Facebook yet, because I am able to get on Safari I am able to keep in contact with my friends and family.  Twitter, I have downloaded the free application called “Twitter” how clever hahaha, and am able to keep track of all the tweets and keep annoying all my followers with my updates on a regular basis.  LinkedIn, there is also a free app which I downloaded and enables me to keep in touch with my contacts as well as check out recent updates.
  4. iBooks.  Hands down maybe one of my most favorite applications.  I love to read.  I probably read two to three books a month.  Currently I’m reading “The Hellhound of Wall Street.”  iBooks is such a great experience.  I also have the Kindle application (also a free application on the iPad) but I have to confess that the iBooks reader is so much prettier.
  5. FarmVille, We Rule, Restaurant, City Story… For the kid in me, I have downloaded as many games as I can possibly keep track of.  My husband laughs every time the iPad bings (I have it set to let me know when my crops are done).  A girl has to have a good time too right?
  6. YouTube.  I love to check out new YouTube videos on how to use things.  Most recently I’m trying to find reviews for the iPad and games that I like so I can learn to play them better and use my iPad to it’s highest potential. 
  7. The Internet. Yeah I troll the web for new content and ideas and I’m now doing it more and more on my iPad.  I’m starting to think that I’m cheating on my Mac book but the iPad is just so much more convenient.

So these are all the ways I use my new toy.  Remember, I’m always read to hear your comments.  Any other thoughts on how I can use my iPad?  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

The Paralegal