If you believe that the plaintiff suing your client for damages in a personal injury lawsuit might just have photos of him or herself playing a game of touch football on her Facebook page, Facebook has added another arrow to your quiver. You could seek an order from the court directing the plaintiff to execute an authorization, as the New York Superior Court did in the Romano v. Steelcase Inc. case, but now it might be as easy as a simple document request.
When it comes down to it, a Facebook page is a document in the same sense as a web-based e-mail, a blog, or any other online writing. Previously, obtaining all of the information from an account was a cumbersome process. It’s easy to print the most recent month or two of information, but obtaining the balance of the data can be tedious and time consuming.
A few months ago, Facebook began allowing users to download their entire account history in an easily use-able format. A user can simply click on “Account” in the upper righthand corner, then the link for “Download your information.” Upon entering in the user’s password, Facebook will compile the user’s entire history and e-mail notice once the file is ready for download. The user then need only sign back in and download the file as a Winzip. Even though the feature has been available since late last year, it still has yet to gain much use in electronic discovery.
The upside of requesting that an opposing party provide their account in this manner is that it is easily navigable. It provides a folder with all pictures, videos, or other files uploaded, along with an HTML file that organizes all of it for you. There’s really no need to even have a vendor process it. The interface is really slick.
The downside is that it only gives you what is actually on the user’s page; deleted items are not included. There is still the ever present risk that as soon as you send the request, the user will go and purge their account of all embarrassing information. If one were to suspect that to be a problem, it would still be necessary to seek an authorization to get the information straight from Facebook a la Steelcase. Regardless, this feature provides an easy and efficient starting point for social media discovery.