Employees’ Facebook Pages Are Private, Until They’re Not

By Mikal E. Belicove|For Entrepreneur.com|November 3, 2011

Even businesses that have an air-tight social media policy can run afoul of the law when employees post on Facebook and other social media platforms.

Last week, an appeals court in New York determined that there are limits to how much proof of employee shenanigans a business can legally gather from social media utilities such as Facebook. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court ruled that commercial builder Turner Construction Co. should not have a free hand in searching the Facebook activity of an employee who was seeking compensation in a personal injury suit against the company. The company was attempting to use information from the employee’s Facebook account to show that he was not being truthful about the extent of his injuries.

The appeals court decision, which reversed a separate ruling by a state Supreme Court justice, noted that the company couldn’t have access to all of the employee’s Facebook entries because the request for information wasn’t specific enough. Instead, per the latest ruling, the company can only peruse Facebook activities that are relevant, in that the information contradicts or conflicts with a plaintiff’s alleged restrictions, disabilities, losses and other claims. That judgment includes activities that are set to private or offer only restricted access to outsiders.

In a similar case last year in New York, a woman who claimed she was bedridden due to injuries had photos on Facebook showing her walking and apparently mobile in front of her own home. The woman was ordered to provide access to private areas of her Facebook and MySpace accounts to the opposing litigant, much like information from an…

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