Will Your Online History Come Back to Haunt You?
Many people falsely assume the personal information they email or post online is private. It is important to understand how your online history can be used against you in a legal proceeding, jeopardize your employment or even put children at risk. The following information will help you understand how your online presence can expose you to risk and how to avoid key mistakes. • Anonymity – Posting comments to online forums, news outlets or blogs may give you a false sense of anonymity and privacy. There is no anonymity online; everything can be traced back to its source. Before posting anything online consider the very real possibility that it will be traced back to you. In addition, anything you post online may be used against you in court. You should never assume that information you post online is private or confidential. • Attorney-Client Confidentiality – Attorney-client confidentiality protects direct communication between you and your attorney. These communications whether in person, by phone or online cannot be used against you in court. You can jeopardize your confidentiality by talking about your legal matter with anyone other than your attorney. A breach of attorney-client privilege can seriously harm your case. Do not discuss the details of your case with anyone other than your attorney and avoid discussing legal matters online. • Children – Child predators use social networking sites to find victims. Talk to your children about online safety. Even uploading pictures of your children to social media or photo sharing websites could put them at risk. Most smart phones and many newer digital cameras use GPS to tag your pictures with the exact location where they were taken. Predators can locate your child within a few feet using this information. The best way to avoid this danger is to disable GPS tagging on your smart phone or camera. • Teens - Online bullying can have tragic consequences. It is important to talk to children about how to handle being bullied, as well as the importance of reporting and not participating in the bullying of other children. It is also important to teach teens about the dangers of posting or transmitting illicit photographs or videos. In recent years teens have been convicted of child pornography charges for possessing nude photographs of underage peers. Explain to teens the legal risks of taking, transmitting or even receiving such images. • Your Job – Employers are increasingly turning to social media to learn more about applicants. Applicants should be aware that their profiles and posts could be used for this purpose. Employers must be careful not to unlawfully discriminate based on age, gender, race, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Employees who make negative comments about customers, co-workers or their employer could end up losing their job. • Family Law – Facebook profiles and Twitter posts are being introduced as evidence more and more frequently in divorce and child custody cases. No matter what your intention when posting something online, consider how it could come back to haunt you. The best advice is to take a break from Facebook or other social media during a divorce or custody dispute. • Criminal Law - In addition to divorce court, the digital trail created through social networking is becoming increasingly common in criminal cases. Discussing illegal activity, even as a joke could land you in hot water.