Think ahead before you post - what you post may be used against you

That photo you posted on Facebook of yourself dancing in the bar a week after an injury that supposedly left you permanently disabled? Not a good idea.

"If you argue that you really don’t do much in the way of activities because of your injuries and then go out and dance and someone sees it on Facebook, it can cast doubts on your claim," said attorney Michael Stoker.

But you don’t have to worry, right? You limit your posts to just friends and friends of friends. Wrong.

An opposing attorney will seek anything that could be used to disprove your claim. That may include photographs or something you posted on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, your blog and other social media. That’s called discovery.

"This is an emerging area of the law," Stoker said, "but a lot of trial courts are saying that once you put something out on the web you have no expectation of privacy," he said. "Any information considered relevant to a lawsuit can be discovered."

With many people now spending more time on social media than e-mail, many businesses increasingly reach out to customers and prospective customers via Facebook and other sites. Companies should be prepared to preserve these messages and be able to produce them as part of discovery in a lawsuit.

Even if incriminating photos, messages or blog posts are deleted, a forensic computer expert could still find them. Also, your photos could live on in a friend’s Facebook or MySpace page or in the "tweet" you sent out with the photo.

Trillions of Twitter "tweets"—those up-to-140-character updates about what you are doing—are being preserved forever through the Library of Congress. Once they are archived, they will comprise a huge database that could be mined.

"Once a photo or a post is out there, it is beyond your control," Stoker said.



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