Data from social-networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have been used to gather evidence in trials against jurors and defendants, against employees (which can lead to lawsuits) and applicants to jobs in the US and abroad, applicants to colleges and graduate schools, politicians and high school students.
Now, the New York Times focuses on the fact that divorce lawyers are gathering evidence on social-networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. (See previous stories on this topic from CNN and the Associated Press.)
DISCRETION and privacy have become antiquated notions on social networks, and the generous revelation of secrets make some people cringe — though not divorce lawyers searching for evidence of misbehavior by their clients’ spouses. What once could be uncovered only through laborious and often unsavory sleuthing can now sometimes be found with the click of a mouse.
Bar associations have been conducting workshops on how to navigate this often brazen new world. […]
“Facebook has become an open book of people’s lives,” [Linda Lea M. Viken, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers,] said. “They write things as though they were having a conversation with one friend, so they say the most outrageous and private things. You can’t get better evidence than what comes from their own mouths or their own computers.”
A survey released last year by the academy found that in the previous five years, 81 percent of its 1,600 members had used information plucked from social networks.
Social networks, of course, are not the only electronic sources of evidence. Videos on YouTube, text messages, dating services, voice mail, cellphones, even Global Positioning System receivers and E-ZPass records can be gold mines of potentially damaging information. […]
The things people post can be worse than any accusation of an angry spouse. For example, Ms. Viken said, a father seeking custody “had listed on his Facebook page that he was single with no children looking for a fun time.”
And if divorcing spouses do not sabotage themselves, their friends, real or on Facebook, can do it for them — either intentionally because they are taking sides in the dispute, or accidentally.