Bellenot & Boufford, LLC
To Parents Who Gave Letter To Teens
Social Networking is all the rage. What was once the domain of teens and tweens is now the platform of choice for many adult individuals and businesses. It’s a quick, easy and inexpensive way to keep in touch and convey a message. Your information, however, is not just going to your intended audience – friends, family, business prospects, professional associations…. In most cases, it is accessible by all. The dangers and precautions of social networking for our children are, by now, well known. Not so for adults and businesses.
One of the things that make e-mail and blogging fun and easy is the relaxed way in which we communicate. Shorthand – or texting – is commonplace. Random, free-flowing thoughts replace structured articles. Content is often personal in nature although the audience could be in the hundreds or even thousands. Links containing more information about the author and the author’s other blogs are often included. These often include social networking sites where friends, family and business associates are identified. These contacts may provide other information about you through their sites. Then there are pictures and videos that are out there on You Tube and other on-line venues.
To an insurance company or attorney, this is a treasure trove of information that was historically unavailable except by extensive discovery. Before even one deposition or interrogatory is made, an incredible amount of information can be gathered about someone. Whether you are filing a claim for an injury, a suspect in a criminal investigation, or a party to a family or civil litigation matter, you have to assume that the other party or representatives of the other party is investigating and gathering information on you. This information may allow them to obtain information they would not otherwise be able to get. Worse, this information can be used out-of-context to incorrectly attribute certain thoughts, beliefs, and character traits to you. While the type of information and possible uses are too numerous to mention in detail, the following list is provided to get you thinking:
- E-mails and other on-line communication are frequently used to prove sexual relationships, as is information retrieved from on-line dating sites;
- Potential witnesses – to one’s character or an event – may be identified via social networking sites;
- A business practice or opinion can be obtained from firm websites and employee blogs;
- Business associations and perhaps communications can be obtained from social networking sites such as Linked-In;
- A Twitter or Linked-In posting may provide enough information to predict your physical location at a particular time so that marshal service or surveillance may be made with ease;
- The Internet history or certain postings made by an individual may be used to portray character traits that are not true or exaggerated;
- Pictures of a person attending an event or participating in an activity can be used to defend claims of injury or extent of disability;
- Business advertisements may open the door for financial discovery;
- Blogs or e-mail may reveal work that is being performed.
WHAT TO DO NOW
STOP. THINK. It’s not just a good Tylenol slogan, but a mantra that should precede every delivery of on-line communication. Once you press the send button, that’s it. It’s out there.
- Is there a reason for making this statement or these pictures public or is it more appropriate to use private communication?
- Am I writing out of anger or using generalizations that I normally wouldn’t use?
- Do I really want my name associated with this website?
- Will this statement reflect poorly on me or my company?
- Am I providing information that can be used against me?
WHAT TO DO IF INVOLVED IN A LEGAL MATTER
You should immediately delete all social networking sites. If you use these and blog, there will of course be material out there that you can’t get back. And even deleted material can be obtained with experts. However, your intent at this stage is to minimize the information that’s public or discoverable. Also, unless you are involved in a criminal investigation, inform your attorney about your internet usage so they can properly prepare for whatever might come up at trial or during negotiations. As for criminal suspects, only give your attorney what he or she requests.