Risk
10/10/2011
10:28 AM
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
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2015-4293
Published: 2015-07-30
The packet-reassembly implementation in Cisco IOS XE 3.13S and earlier allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (CPU consumption or packet loss) via fragmented (1) IPv4 or (2) IPv6 packets that trigger ATTN-3-SYNC_TIMEOUT errors after reassembly failures, aka Bug ID CSCuo37957.

CVE-2014-7912
Published: 2015-07-29
The get_option function in dhcp.c in dhcpcd before 6.2.0, as used in dhcpcd 5.x in Android before 5.1 and other products, does not validate the relationship between length fields and the amount of data, which allows remote DHCP servers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (memory c...

CVE-2014-7913
Published: 2015-07-29
The print_option function in dhcp-common.c in dhcpcd through 6.9.1, as used in dhcp.c in dhcpcd 5.x in Android before 5.1 and other products, misinterprets the return value of the snprintf function, which allows remote DHCP servers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (memory corru...

CVE-2015-2977
Published: 2015-07-29
Webservice-DIC yoyaku_v41 allows remote attackers to create arbitrary files, and consequently execute arbitrary code, via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-2978
Published: 2015-07-29
Webservice-DIC yoyaku_v41 allows remote attackers to bypass authentication and complete a conference-room reservation via unspecified vectors, as demonstrated by an "unintentional reservation."

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
What’s the future of the venerable firewall? We’ve invited two security industry leaders to make their case: Join us and bring your questions and opinions!