Social Media and Privacy
When social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram grew into major tech powerhouses, many internet enthusiasts saw them as models that proved the world-changing potential of the internet by connecting people around the world on an unprecedented scale. However, while it has certainly made the world smaller in more or less a good way, some think society pays the price for social media in concessions of personal privacy.
As the social media craze swept the world at breakneck speed, average people arguably haven’t had the time to adapt their behaviors and perspectives to the unique limitations of communicating online. Many people treat online communication the same way they would through mail or telephone.
In general, a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the communications they transmit through phone or mail. However, that same expectation of privacy does not necessarily apply to internet communications—especially social media postings.
It is not uncommon to see people publish what others would consider private material and content through social media—and that is the keyword: publish. At its core, social media is a public space where people frequently interact with a broad audience.
When it comes to social media, privacy is not the rule—it is the exception. Otherwise, messages on social media wouldn’t have to be qualified as “private” or “direct” to distinguish them from standard communications.
Despite whether you think social media blurs or erodes the private sphere, one thing is for sure: its lack of privacy makes social media a goldmine for evidence in divorce cases.
In a divorce case, issues concerning the custody of minor children are determined by considering the child’s best interests. Among the factors courts must consider when resolving custody disputes is whether a parent can provide their child with a safe and stable environment. As a result, a parent’s lifestyle choices are often very relevant to child custody determinations.
Social media tends to give people the courage to expose aspects of their lives and personalities they wouldn’t otherwise show in public, especially if they are surrounded by like-minded individuals. For example, proponents of legal marijuana use might feel secure about posting pictures of themselves using marijuana. However, a former spouse can easily access those pictures and print them as exhibits for a custody hearing, arguing that their drug use presents a danger to their minor child.
Another factor regarding child custody involves a parent’s ability and willingness to promote a close relationship between their child and the other parent. Social media can provide someone with a social network that is crucial for coping with the hardships of divorce. However, a person should be careful about venting about their divorce on social media. Posts that trash-talk the other parent can be used against someone in court to demonstrate their antipathy towards the other party, and their unwillingness to preserve the important bond between their child and the other parent.
Illinois courts are authorized to issue temporary protective orders enjoining someone from contacting their spouse, child, or other household member if doing so would prevent the occurrence of domestic violence. Domestic violence does not necessarily have to involve physical attacks. The threat of violence and verbal harassment may serve as a sufficient basis for issuing domestic violence protection orders.
Evidence of harassment and threats can be pulled off of social media interactions. Such evidence isn’t limited to standard public postings. “Private” or “direct” messages from an attacker can be collected from the victim’s end and used against the attacker in court.
The usefulness of evidence gathered from the internet goes beyond what people can see at face value. Digital photos, videos, and messages all have hidden data that can be even more useful than its content. For example, when you post a photo online, not only can a lawyer find an easy way to legally access the image data, but they can also access what’s known as the file’s “metadata.”
Metadata contains information about who posted an image, when it was posted, and where it was posted. This data can be used in court to show that a parent was out partying when they said they were at home watching their child. Metadata can also help someone discover hidden assets that were undisclosed during divorce proceedings.
Get Comprehensive Legal Advice
If you are going through a divorce, you should retain an attorney who is committed to protecting your rights. At the Law Office of Jonathan Merel, PC, we can advise about issues such as social media use. We are also prepared to fiercely advocate for your interests, knowing what to look for in your former spouse’s social media postings.
For quality legal advocacy, call us at (312) 487-2795 today.