Private Messages May Not Stay Private

    June 15, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

As the name implies, private messages are supposed to be private. As legal system might imply, they may not always stay that way.

Computer Messages May Not Be Private
Computer Messages May Not Be Private

Social networks like MySpace and Facebook make promises that they will protect member privacy. But a sexual assault case in New Jersey may force them to renege on that promise. goes into complete detail, but here’s the short and not-so-sweet version.

In the case T.V. vs. Union Township Board of Education, where the plaintiff alleges the school failed to take steps to prevent a sexual assault by a fellow student, and thus contributed to the victim’s emotional distress.

The assailant was convicted previously, so, as often happens in these cases, there’s no heart-rending exploration of accuser credibility.

But now the school board’s defense team has to look for evidence against emotion distress – which sounds silly on the surface, of course there was distress.

It’s the inglorious obligation of the defense team in this case, though, to explore the extent of distress, its likely causes, and make a case that the school was not at fault.

Defense, though, wants to force MySpace and Facebook to hand over the text of private messages made by the plaintiff in order to examine evidence of said distress.

Rest easy for now all you staunch privacy advocates. The judge in the case has denied the request, requiring the defense to do more discovery work. But she might change her mind.

This case is another reminder that there may be no real privacy on the Internet. As a general rule, then, if you don’t want it known, to type it out and push the send button – even if it’s supposed to be a "private" message.