We’ve written previously about the privacy problems in Facebook Places. We’ve also written about the often unsuspected expense of subpoenaed social media records, otherwise known as eDiscovery. Taken together, these two facts present a whole new compliance issue for businesses and individuals: Facebook is now an eye-witness to your whereabouts.
Facebook Places lets you check into a location, establishing whether or not you attended an event or ever visited a specific business or residence. Facebook Places also lets your friends tag you into a location. Thus, you need not even acknowledge that you were at a company party or corporate retreat — your colleagues can confirm your presence for you (whether you like it or not). And, just as your friends can tag you into Facebook photos you’d rather remained unpublished and anonymous, Facebook Places can “put you at the scene” as they say on television crime dramas, associating you with places and events you would just assume stay private.
It’s the latter issue that is the most troubling. Location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla have allowed for the social media tracking of your physical presence for some time. But the user was always in control; you chose what was tracked and what was left unrecorded. Facebook Places gives your friends control of your location record, which both increases the amount of data available about you and decreases the level of control you have over that data.
The admissibility of Facebook Places data is yet to be determined and — as is often the case in civil litigation — will likely be up to the discretion of the presiding judge. Yet the power of Facebook Places to affect your legal standing in a lawsuit or criminal trial is only the beginning of the issues presented by Facebook’s new functionality.
Facebook Places now offer a whole new set of potential datapoints that you’ll have to turn over to your lawyers and copy to your opponent’s legal team. Facebook Places just ratcheted up the cost of eDiscovery and it did so by making Facebook data substantially more interesting to opposing parties.
Put simply: If Facebook Places always knows where you are, a cop or lawyer will eventually want that information, too. You’ll be expected to turn over that data at your own expense. Even if it isn’t relevant. Even if it’s inadmissible. The more scattered and disorganized that data, the more expensive eDiscovery compliance will become.
Hope you’ve got a backup plan.
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- Discontent Grows With Facebook Places’ Ability To Tag Without Users’ Express Permission (techcrunch.com)
- How to Protect Your Privacy on Facebook Places (Kurt/Electronic Frontier Foundation) (techmeme.com)
- You Don’t Want Facebook for the Enterprise (aiimcommunities.org)
- Social Media Gives eDiscovery Indigestion (arnoldit.com)