Social Media Privacy and Florida Law

A case involving a “slip and fall” claim in Florida is challenging some widely-held expectations regarding privacy on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

A woman named Maria Nucci claimed that on February 4, 2010, she slipped and fell on a foreign substance on the floor of a Target store. In her complaint, she alleged that she suffered bodily injury, pain, lost earnings, and other damages.

This case, coming before the District Court of Appeals in the Fourth District of Florida is interesting and complex because it involves images and videos from the Facebook account of Ms. Nucci and deals with the issue of whether they are private or not. The case also deals with technical rules of procedure involving the timing of depositions and also statutes involving discovery, or the gathering of evidence.

The court cited the following opinion from a Palm Beach County judge:
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, are free websites where an individual creates a “profile” which functions as a personal web page and may include, at the user’s discretion, numerous photos and a vast array of personal information including age, employment, education, religious and political views and various recreational interests.

The court then stated, in part, “We agree with those cases concluding that, generally, the photographs posted on a social networking site are neither privileged nor protected by any right of privacy, regardless of any privacy settings that the user may have established.”

Courts have dealt with other electronic communication such as email and text messages, where a reasonable expectation of privacy is implied and assumed. In most cases, these are recognized as private communication.

The Appeals Court also quoted an earlier opinion of a Federal judge, which stated:
Even had plaintiff used privacy settings that allowed only her “friends” on Facebook to see postings, she “had no justifiable expectation that h[er] `friends’ would keep h[er] profile private. . .

There also comes into play the providers of communication services, in other words Facebook and cell-phone companies like Verizon as well as internet hosting companies and internet service providers such as Comcast. They all get mixed into this complex web of personal and non-personal communication. These companies are sometimes ordered by a court to divulge information on their customers.

People should also understand that if a picture or video is posted to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, any online site, it is never totally gone even if you delete it. Servers have deep memory that stores everything somewhere.

Any legal issue in one way or another exposes the parties to investigation by the opposing side. This is why it is prudent to have competent legal representation at all times. The Law Firm of Lazarus and Lazarus are dedicating first and foremost to protecting the rights of their clients, and they are fluent with all Florida statutes.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of someone else’s negligence, you may reach Gary and Arleen Lazarus by calling 954-356-0006. They will be happy to sit down with you, listen to your story, and advise you on your rights related to privacy and compensation for your injuries or damages.

Gary and Arleen Lazarus stress that all persons should be mindful that there is no expectation of privacy granted by the law when it comes to social media. Everything written or posted on Twitter, Facebook, etc – even if you have deleted it – may someday be located on a server used against you in court.