Social networking and personal liability: What you don't know CAN hurt you


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Laura Hollis, JD and iFoundry Faculty Advisor to iTeam EI presents netiquette to iTeams at Wednesday's meeting.

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Social networking and personal liability: What you don't know CAN hurt you

  1. 1. What you don’t know CAN hurt you<br />Social networking and personal liability<br />iFoundry workshop, Sept. 9, 2009<br />Prof. Laura L. Hollis<br />
  2. 2. Five things you need to be concerned about:<br />Defamation<br />Invasion of privacy<br />Contributory liability for others’ tortious or criminal conduct<br />Prospective employers and others’ access<br />Your own safety<br />
  3. 3. Defamation<br />Civil liability for FALSE information that damages a person’s reputation<br />“Publication” – means that a third party hears or reads the statement<br />You can be liable for repetition, as well as origination<br />Defamation “per se” – when the conduct alleged is truly heinous, damages are presumed<br />Truth is an absolute defense….<br />BUT!<br />
  4. 4. Invasion of privacy<br />Civil liability for disseminating information in which people ordinarily have an expectation of privacy<br />“public disclosure of private facts”<br />If highly offensive to a reasonable person<br />And not of legitimate concern to the general public<br />PHOTOS COUNT!<br />
  5. 5. Contributory liability for others’ tortious or criminal conduct<br /><br />(Parents sue MySpace for criminal sexual assault against their daughter)<br />This is a newer theory of recovery, but you should be aware of it. Could you be sued because something YOU posted exposed another person to danger?<br />
  6. 6. Employers’ and others’ access to YOUR information<br />No right of privacy to information published on social networking sites<br />Employers can set up MySpace or Facebook accounts and have access to your information<br />2005 ExecuNetsurvey: 75% of recruiters already use web searching as part of the applicant screening process, and more than 25% say they have eliminated candidates based on information they found online.<br />NBC News: 77% of employers uncover information about candidates online; 35% percent of them have eliminated  candidates based on information they have uncovered.<br />A poll by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that almost 27% of 254 surveyed employers admitted to reviewing applicants&apos; profiles on social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, before hiring them.<br />What is on YOUR page? Are you “tagged” on others’ pages?<br />
  7. 7. Employers’ and others’ access to YOUR information - examples<br />“Right before we interviewed a recent college graduate, we discovered that one of his interests listed on his [social networking] profile is ‘Smokin&apos; blunts with the homies, and bustin&apos; caps in whitey’ and one of his favorite quotes is ‘Beware of big butts and a smile.’ Our ‘first impression’ of our candidate was officially tainted, and he had little hope of regaining a professional image in our eyes. He was not hired.”<br />Brad Karsh, President, JobBound<br />“Ana Homayoun, the manager of a small educational consulting firm in San Francisco, visited Duke University in the spring of 2006 to interview a potential job applicant. Before interviewing her, however, Homayoun decided to look at the applicant&apos;s Facebook page. There she found &quot;explicit photographs and commentary about the student&apos;s sexual escapades, drinking and pot smoking, including testimonials from friends,&quot; in addition to pictures of the applicant &quot;passed out after drinking.&quot; &quot;When I saw that, I thought, &quot;O.K., so much for that,&apos;“ said Homayoun.”<br />Alan Finder, When a Risqué Online Persona Undermines a Chance for a Job, <br />New York Times, June 11, 2006<br />
  8. 8. Employers’ and others’ access to YOUR information – an example close to home<br />“An anecdote reveals the powerful effect such background investigations may have. The president of a small consulting company in Chicago logged onto Facebook to research a recent University of Illinois graduate who was applying for a summer intern position. On the site the president found the applicant&apos;s profile, which listed his interests as ‘smokin&apos; blunts&apos; ... , shooting people and obsessive sex, all described in vivid slang.’ Needless to say, in this case the applicant&apos;s Facebook profile prevented him from getting the job. What once was considered a private realm for the younger generation is becoming widely known to the older generation,&quot; and employers are increasingly capitalizing on the informational abundance provided by this new realm.”<br />Ian Byrnside, Note, “Six Clicks of Separation: The Legal Ramifications of Employers Using Social Networking Sites to Research Applicants” 10 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 445 <br />(Winter, 2008 )<br />
  9. 9. Think about your OWN safety:<br /> How well do you know the people you allow access to your pages? What about the people they know?<br />“Consider the example of Freddi Staur, a toy frog with a Facebook account. In a recent study conducted by Sophos, a Boston-based Internet security company, Freddi ‘friended’ 200 Facebook members. Of the 200, 82 accepted the frog&apos;s friendship request, and Freddi was thereby able to view these Facebook members&apos; personal information. Sophos&apos; ‘research shows that 41% of Facebook users will divulge personal information-such as e-mail, address, date of birth and phone number-to a complete stranger.’Additionally, strangers were, in most cases, given access to family photos, ...”<br />Sophos, “Facebook: The Privacy and Productivity Challenge,”<br />as cited in Samantha L. Millier, Note: The Facebook Frontier: <br />Responding to the Changing Face of Privacy on the Internet, 97 Ky. L.J. 541 (2008-9)<br />
  10. 10. What’s the MORAL of the story?<br />Don’t reveal information about yourself that you wouldn’t want broadcast on TV or on a billboard in Times Square<br />Don’t publish embarrassing or personal information about yourself or anyone else, or post compromising photos<br />Don’t reveal your schedule, post or “tweet” that you or anyone else is alone<br />Don’t reveal information like phone numbers, e-mail addresses, street addresses, social security numbers, etc.<br />When in doubt, LEAVE IT OUT.<br />