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Florida Court Rules that Social Media Photographs are Not Protected From Civil Discovery

A Florida state appellate court required a plaintiff in a slip-and-fall lawsuit to provide the defendant with photos that she had posted on Facebook, reasoning that individuals have little or no privacy rights to information that they have posted on social media.

Maria Nucci sued Target Corp., alleging that she slipped and fell in a Target store.  During discovery, Target requested access to the photos that she posted on Facebook. The state trial court granted Target’s request, and Nucci petitioned the Court of Appeal of Florida to quash the discovery order.

In its Jan. 7, 2015 opinion, the appellate court denied Nucci’s petition.   The court reasoned that photographs provide courts with many of the facts that are necessary to decide personal injury cases.  The court reasoned that testimony alone is insufficient for the court “to grasp what a plaintiff’s life was like prior to an accident.”

“It would take a great novelist, a Tolstoy, a Dickens, or a Hemingway, to use words to summarize the totality of a prior life,”  Judge Robert M. Gross wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.  “If a photograph is worth a thousand words, there is no better portrayal of what an individual’s life was like than those photographs the individual has chosen to share through social media before the occurrence of an accident causing injury.”

Judge Gross further reasoned that photographs posted on social media are neither privileged nor protected by a right of privacy, regardless of the user’s privacy settings.

“Because information that an individual shares through social networking web-sites like Facebook may be copied and disseminated by another, the expectation that such information is private, in the traditional sense of the word, is not a reasonable one,” Judge Gross wrote.

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Repeatedly ranked as having one of the best privacy practices in the world, Covington combines exceptional substantive expertise with an unrivaled understanding of the IT industry, and of e-commerce and digital media business models in particular.  Our practice provides exceptional coverage of all of the substantive areas of privacy, including IT/technology, data security, financial privacy, health privacy, employment privacy, litigation and transactions.  One of our core strengths is the ability to advise clients on relevant privacy and data security rules worldwide,...