I recently read an interesting article discussing why divorce and the internet don't mix. This began to raise many questions in my head. For example, when individuals “tweet” their thoughts or “instagram” their photos, do they have a Fourth Amendment privacy right over these thoughts and photos? Do individuals retain a reasonable expectation of privacy in these communications?
Do You Have a 4th Amendment Privacy Right Over Your Public Postings?
Once you publicly display your images or thoughts on public forums, they are no longer your private property. If you have a run in with the law, the court may use this information against you. And rest assured that the prosecuting attorney charging you will find a way to subpoena those tweets and images.
Twitter Submits Subpoenaed Tweets to Judge
A Wall Street protester named Malcolm Harris was arrested and faced criminal charges for disregarding police orders during the Wall Street protest at the Brooklyn Bridge. Apparently, the protestors were told not to cross the bridge. During the protests Harris apparently tweeted information relevant to his was awareness of these police orders. Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr., who is overseeing his criminal trial, wanted access to these tweets. Harris argued that his tweets are private property and cannot be made available to the court. However, the Judge opined that Twitter users do not own their tweets and Twitter should hand them over when subpoenaed. His tweets for the period of September 15, 2011 to December 31, 2011 were eventually submitted to the Judge. Of course, Harris was not too happy when Twitter handed over his private information to the Judge.
Unfortunately, it seems as though neither Harris nor any of us have Fourth Amendment privacy protection when it comes to our social networking accounts.
Consequences of Posting Photos or Thoughts on Social Networking Sites
The next time you think about posting an inappropriate photo, or tweeting about how much you like to party with your “bros” in Las Vegas, sleep on it before posting it. You never know how it will effect your rights at let's say, your child custody hearing.
Do you think that law enforcement agencies should be able to subpoena Twitter to access your personal tweets?
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