Risk
10/10/2011
10:28 AM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Social Media Can Hurt You In A Lawsuit

Social media postings could soon join email as a common part of the legal discovery process. Here's what SMBs need to know to protect themselves.

10 Cool Social Media Monitoring Tools
Slideshow: 10 Cool Social Media Monitoring Tools
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Social media has already become The Next Big Thing. Could it soon be the next big thing in business lawsuits?

The short answer: Yes, according to Jamie Brigman, director of product management and technical strategy at Applied Discovery. Brigman's employer, a LexisNexis subsidiary, does electronic discovery work for legal cases. Though not common today, Brigman said the information that companies and their employees share on social sites is poised become a significant piece of the discovery process during civil litigation over business-related disputes.

"[Lawyers] are always concerned about risk," Brigman said in an interview. "They're looking for what kind of information is discoverable in the future."

The potential legal risks of social media increase each time a site adds features intended to better collect--and share--information, business or personal. Take Facebook's recent platform overhaul, which included the introduction of the Timeline feature.

[ Plan ahead to reduce security threats. Read How SMBs Can Minimize Denial-of-Service Risks ]

"Their goal is to be able to tell a story," Brigman said. "It parallels, in litigation, what lawyers are trying to do: Tell a story about the person or the issue that they're investigating."

If you're like me, legalese is a foreign language, so first a definition: Discovery is the part of the litigation process in which each side has the right to access and review each other's information--including sensitive, private data--if it's deemed relevant to the dispute. Brigman said social media is not a common part of the discovery process today outside of divorce and personal injury cases. That doesn't mean it won't become one in corporate lawsuits. Brigman pointed to the legal industry's relatively slow move to view email in the same way as it treats paper-based documents. While email began changing business communications in the 1990s, Brigman said the medium didn't become a standard part of legal discovery until around 2004 or 2005. But just because lawyers weren't quick to recognize the prevalence of email didn't mean businesses--or more to the point, their employees--could click "send" without consequences.

"Electronic information is persistent," Brigman said, adding that once email became an everyday part of discovery, it was retroactive--what happened on email did not stay there. "All of that information was still around. With Facebook, it's even worse."

Brigman expects a shorter lag time for the legal industry with social media because of an ever-increasing cultural comfort with technology--it wasn't so long ago that email had a certain magic, and now it produces yawns. When the legal liability of social media data grows, the challenge for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) should sound familiar: Limited resources. Whereas a large company typically has teams of people devoted to legal, HR, brand management, public relations, and other areas charged with keeping the company in good standing, SMBs often have individuals handling those same functions--sometimes simultaneously.

"[SMBs] don't have the ability to go around policing every time they're mentioned in the public," Brigman said. "They certainly don't have the same amount of resources, typically, to lock down information."

Brigman noted two social scenarios that could expose SMBs to risk in legal discovery. The first involves employees acting, perhaps with the best of intentions, as official representatives of the business in social settings, even if they're not actually authorized to do so. Example: a consumer registers a beef with a company's product or service in an online forum, and an employee of that company chimes in to try and help. That could expose the company to legal risks down the line.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Bprince
50%
50%
Bprince,
User Rank: Ninja
10/11/2011 | 1:51:12 AM
re: Social Media Can Hurt You In A Lawsuit
Policy and education are definitely important. But how do companies avoid disintegrating the line between public/work lives and private lives with their policies?
Brian Prince, InformationWeek contributor
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7407
Published: 2014-10-22
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in the MRBS module for Drupal allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of unspecified victims via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-3675
Published: 2014-10-22
Shim allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (out-of-bounds read) via a crafted DHCPv6 packet.

CVE-2014-3676
Published: 2014-10-22
Heap-based buffer overflow in Shim allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted IPv6 address, related to the "tftp:// DHCPv6 boot option."

CVE-2014-3677
Published: 2014-10-22
Unspecified vulnerability in Shim might allow attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted MOK list, which triggers memory corruption.

CVE-2014-3828
Published: 2014-10-22
Multiple SQL injection vulnerabilities in Centreon 2.5.1 and Centreon Enterprise Server 2.2 allow remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via (1) the index_id parameter to views/graphs/common/makeXML_ListMetrics.php, (2) the sid parameter to views/graphs/GetXmlTree.php, (3) the session_id...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.