Ponder This Before Your Next Social Media Post

Here’s a juicy but troubling little nugget from my current read by Marc Goodman titled Future Crimes:

“This noted exception to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure means that any data you post online in any format (regardless of your privacy settings) or any data that are collected by the third parties with whom you have an agreed-upon business relationship are not considered private. Nor does it meet the constitutional standard of “private papers” but rather forms part of the business records of the institution in possession of the data. Shocking though this may be, it is the current state of jurisprudence in the United States, with noted and profound impact on all citizens both online and off. As a result, your data leak to places you would never want them to, and you cannot claw them back, no matter how hard you try.

“Accordingly, the word “Facebook” appeared in a full one-third of divorce filings in 2011. All of this provides excellent fodder for the 81 percent of divorce attorneys who admit searching social media sites for evidence that can be used against their clients’ spouses. For instance, all the data shared on Facebook and Twitter and all the cell-phone call records and GPS locational data that neatly recorded whose cell phone was next to whose and when become fair game in the battle royal that can be divorce proceedings. The pictures innocently taken of you at all those parties over the years, blurry-eyed with drink in hand, now become evidence of unfit parenting, a nugget of gold for opposing counsel during cross-examination. That profile you created on OkCupid indicating you were single (which was shared via your browser’s cookies with fifty marketing companies)—perfectly admissible when your wife brings it up during your divorce hearing. When a husband complains that his wife is an inattentive and an unfit mother, he has new powerful evidence to support his claims in the form of subpoenaed records documenting the hundreds of hours she logged on FarmVille and in World of Warcraft, times coinciding with all of her children’s soccer and baseball games that she missed. But the data we’re leaking affect us not only during divorce but in our jobs as well.

“A survey conducted by Microsoft on the matter of online reputation found that 70 percent of human resource professionals had rejected a job candidate based on information they had uncovered during an online search. Worse, some employers are now demanding the social media passwords of job applicants and even current employees. Want to work for the Norman, Oklahoma, Police Department, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the city of Bozeman, Montana, or the Virginia State Police? Applicants in all of these jurisdictions were required to turn over their Facebook and other social media passwords as part of their so-called routine background checks. This includes providing prospective employers access to all your messages, photographs, and timelines, private and public, on Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, YouTube, and Instagram. While some states, including California, have barred such practices against employees, there is no federal law banning such practices, and it remains legal in 80 percent of American states, and so the data leak.”

The book has proven to be a very interesting read thus far.


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