Facebook and the Ending of the Concept of Personal Privacy

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From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.  A few years ago I began noticing a new category of evidence emerging:  Facebook evidence.  People involved in child custody disputes were using the Facebook pages of their adversaries to point out misbehaviors such as drunkness, constant use of profanity, threats to kill, etc.  From my perch of 30 years at the bar, I view this development with bemusement.  When I was young,  people were no more virtuous than they are now, but they usually had more sense than to blast out to the world that they were drunks, hedonists, verbally challenged except when using the F-Bomb, or to have photos of themselves published to the world in, and how truly Victorian the phrase seems now, compromising positions.  Most people understood that their personal lives were personal, and not to be broadcast to the planet at large.  Now, it seems as if exhibitionism is the order of the day, and Facebook and other social media exist to trumpet every portion of one’s life, especially the tawdry aspects.  Time for me to enlist two shades from the next world to provide commentary.  First, the famous phrase that Cicero used in his second oration against Verres:  O Tempora, O Mores!  Second, the late Ray Walston:

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19 Responses to Facebook and the Ending of the Concept of Personal Privacy

  • There’s actually a speculative fiction interactive novel set in 2027 in which things have developed to the point where high school kids consider personal privacy to be an utterly alien concept. Could turn out to be pretty prescient.

  • Donald,

    This is something about which I regularly counsel clients in my domestic work. First, keep a log of anything your (crazy) ex / baby daddy / biomom / etc. says on his / her Facebook page – it’s a treasure trove of information. Second, post NOTHING about your doings on yours – nothing at all.

    –Jonathan

  • As do I Jonathan. It is absolutely flabbergasting to me that people involved in litigation will still post items on their Facebook page that casts them in a very bad light. It is truly astonishing how many people do not have the sense that God gave a goose.

  • Donald,

    There is also an unfortunate trap here which many attorneys will run into sooner or later, I suspect. I have seen opposing parties (probably without knowledge or warning from their lawyer) delete things from their Facebook page. Then they are guilty of deliberate destruction of electronic records, and potentially face sanctions and all manner of problematic occurrences in court.

    –Jonathan

  • Perhaps Jonathan, although most of the judges I practice in front of tend to be rather cyncial about what I call “dead cat” negative evidence against the opposing party. One judge who has since retired noted from the bench on more than one occasion that when he is hearing negative evidence about an opposing party in a child custody case what was normally going through his mind, in reference to the party offering the evidence was; “And you picked him (or her) to have a child with, and what does that say about your judgment?” If negative evidence is serious enough it can be a case winner, but many of my clients wish to drag out negative evidence that either a judge would rule to be irrelevant, or they are guilty of similar conduct they attack in the other party.

  • When I was young, people were no more virtuous than they are now

    When I was young there was:

    1. A good deal more street crime and drug use (predominantly transgressions of the young)

    2. A much greater regard for forms among the adult population.

    (I think my parents contemporaries were a good deal more virtuous than mine. Their vices were an excess of deference to authority and tolerance for humbug).

  • “From my perch of 30 years at the bar…” Can we fairly assume, Don, that this is not a reference to favorite tavern.

  • I am that rarest of creatures Joe, an American of mostly Irish descent who is also a tee-totaler. I have never drunk an alcoholic beverage in my life. Which means I lack a built an excuse for any crazy or bizarre behavior I have ever engaged in! :)

  • Don, thank you for clarifying. If we were ever to meet at the bar, I’d buy you a Shirley Temple. And, of course, we would never want to mention it on Facebook. : )

  • Donald,

    I agree about the dead cat negative. However, judges are (slightly) more willing to impose sanctions for deleting / destroying evidence.

  • “I’d buy you a Shirley Temple.”

    Not on your life! My beverage would be Royal Crown Cola! A glass of RC, a mustard sandwich, barbecue potato chips and a good book: Elysian paradise!

  • “However, judges are (slightly) more willing to impose sanctions for deleting / destroying evidence.”

    True Jonathan, especially after a protective order requiring the maintenance of evidence has been entered.

  • As an educator, I am very glad that I opted to delete my facebook page in its entirety before being hired. I did not miss spending any time on it after 2 days. Some of my peers still have theirs and waste hours scrolling through every one of their friends’ feeds.

  • Royal Crown Cola! I haven’t seen one of those since I moved to Texas. They used to be #3, after Coke and Pepsi.

    I wonder whatever happened to them?

  • When I was young: the emphasis was on computer security. You always used handles rather than your real name, and you never gave out personal information. Old habits die hard.

  • My beverage would be Royal Crown Cola…..

    I’ll second that, with a small measure of rum included. :-)

  • Don

    On the positve side, that small mionorty that does not leave a trail all over the net, may be he ones with the good judgement to hold political office.

  • A thought

    If personal privacy becomes passe, does that mean the “privacy right” underlying
    Roe V Wade is rendered inoppeative by events.

  • The right to privacy Hank appears to be more and more of a mere legal abstraction. The right to be left alone has been replaced with the right to scream: “Notice me!!! Notice me!!!”

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