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Security & privacy

Facebook’s privacy settings won’t protect you in court

Our reasons for using Facebook vary, from wanting to keep in touch with family and friends to playing games and getting news. But through it all, the general theme behind the site is information, both receiving and providing.

Do people overshare? Sure, but while we may be could stand to post a little bit less about our lives, chances are whatever we choose to disclose to the internet won’t get us into too much trouble.

At least, not any kind of legal trouble.

Your posts can be evidence

It turns out, however, anything you post or write through the site could be used against you in a court of law. We know this because the New York Court of Appeals this week ruled, by a 7-0 decision, that a Manhattan woman who suffered spinal and brain injuries from a horse riding accident had to turn over posts — photos, messages, etc. — taken both before and after sustaining her injuries.

The case came about because Kelly Forman claimed Mark Henkin (the horse’s owner) exhibited negligence when fitting her horse with a defective stirrup prior to the June 2011 incident. In trying to defend himself, Henkin wanted access to Forman’s account.

The case has gone back and forth for a while now.

A February 2014 ruling by a trial court stated that Forman had to give Henkin pre-accident photos she planned on using in the trial, but nearly two years later, in December 2015, a state appeals court decided to limit the disclosure only to photos intended for trial so that Henkin could not go fishing for evidence.

This latest ruling states the appeals court made a mistake, given how social media posts are things people already decided to share publicly.

The good news for those who value their privacy is that while the court ruled some information had to be forked over, the extent to which posts must be shared has to do with how relevant they could be to the case. Still, while privacy settings may limit who can view your posts in a general sense, when the law gets involved, you might have to share more than you want.

Speaking of privacy

Are you worried about the privacy risks of your smartphone’s always-on microphone? Click here for tips on how to turn it off.

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