Tuesday, November 15, 2011










Oldtimer rally: Alfa Romeo vs Ford and Chevy

The Cuban capital hosted a winter rally through the streets of Havana that featured cars from the 1940s through the 60s.










Judge Orders Divorcing Couple To Swap Facebook And Dating Site Passwords

 


Most divorces require spouses to part with some of their property, but in Connecticut, a soon-to-be ex-husband and wife are being asked to give up more than just investments, cars, TVs, kids, and pets. They have to hand over their social networking passwords. At the end of September, Judge Kenneth Shluger ordered that the attorneys for Stephen and Courtney Gallion exchange “their client’s Facebook and dating website passwords.”
Everyone knows that evidence from social networking sites comes in handy for lawsuits and divorces. Attorneys usually get that material by visiting someone’s page or asking that they turn over evidence from their page, not by signing into their accounts. But judges are sometimes forcing litigants to hand over the passwords to their Facebook accounts. Should they be? What was the reason behind the court-authorized hacking in the Gallion case?
I spoke with Stephen Gallion’s divorce lawyer, Gary Traystman, who amazingly has no computer or e-mail account. “I see the information people can get from computers, in lawsuits and through hacking,” says Traystman. “They scare the hell out of me.”
Traystman tells me that his client saw a few incriminating things on the computer he shares with his wife at home that made him suspect that there would be more evidence in her social networking accounts. Traystman says there was evidence there of how she feels about her children and her ability to take care of them, and that it would help his client in arguing for full custody. During a deposition, Traystman asked Courtney Gallion for the passwords for her Facebook account, as well as EHarmony and Match (which she had apparently already joined). She initially refused but was then counseled by her lawyer to hand them over (Ed. note: questionable legal advice there).
Traystman says she immediately texted a friend and asked that person to change the passwords and delete some of her messages. That’s when he got the judge involved, to issue an injunction that she not delete any material and order the attorneys to exchange passwords for both spouses so that they could conduct discovery. Traystman says he reviewed his own client’s accounts before doing this and knew he had nothing to hide. I suggested to Traystman that it must have been painful for his client to go through his wife’s dating site communications. “It would be painful for many spouses to see what their spouses are doing,” he replied.
In “normal” discovery, a litigant is usually asked to turn over “responsive material” not the keys to access all that material and more, but it seems that judges are applying different standards to social networking accounts. Lawyer and tech blogger Venkat Balasubramani has written about several other civil cases 1) where judges have issued similar orders, including a personal injury case, 2) where judges have taken it upon themselves to sign into someone’s Facebook account and look for evidence, 3) as well as cases where judges have smacked down lawyers who asked for opposing litigants’ passwords, as in an insurance case involving State Farm,
While all may be ‘fair’ in love and war (and personal injuries), password exchanges like this are not kosher according to Facebook’s terms of service. I wonder if Judge Shluger is aware that his order violates Facebook’s TOS, which require that users not hand over their passwords to anyone else. Shluger did, at least, try to limit the privacy invasiveness of his order by telling the parties not to prank each other.
“Neither party shall visit the website of the other’s social network and post messages purporting to be the other,” he included in the order.
Being forced to hand over social networking passwords seems highly privacy-invasive given the ability to then root around for whatever one wants in an account, but the Gallions are certainly not the first to be subjected to this (and likely won’t be the last).







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