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
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-9651
Published: 2015-08-28
Buffer overflow in CHICKEN 4.9.0.x before 4.9.0.2, 4.9.x before 4.9.1, and before 5.0 allows attackers to have unspecified impact via a positive START argument to the "substring-index[-ci] procedures."

CVE-2015-1171
Published: 2015-08-28
Stack-based buffer overflow in GSM SIM Utility (aka SIM Card Editor) 6.6 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a long entry in a .sms file.

CVE-2015-2987
Published: 2015-08-28
Type74 ED before 4.0 misuses 128-bit ECB encryption for small files, which makes it easier for attackers to obtain plaintext data via differential cryptanalysis of a file with an original length smaller than 128 bits.

CVE-2015-6266
Published: 2015-08-28
The guest portal in Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) 3300 1.2(0.899) does not restrict access to uploaded HTML documents, which allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information from customized documents via a direct request, aka Bug ID CSCuo78045.

CVE-2015-6267
Published: 2015-08-28
Cisco IOS XE before 2.2.3 on ASR 1000 devices allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (Embedded Services Processor crash) via a crafted L2TP packet, aka Bug IDs CSCsw95722 and CSCsw95496.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Another Black Hat is in the books and Dark Reading was there. Join the editors as they share their top stories, biggest lessons, and best conversations from the premier security conference.