Whether you are involved in a business transaction, a litigation, or even a job search, what you have on your profile page on a social networking website could come back to haunt you.

social media privacySocial networking websites have become such a cultural phenomenon, that last fall they prompted an inquiry to the New York State Bar Association’s Committee of Professional Ethics. The question posed was: may a lawyer access an opposing party’s Facebook or MySpace page for the purpose of finding (presumably negative or incriminating) information for use in a litigation? The Ethics Committee’s answer was yes. A lawyer may not “friend” someone for the purposes of finding such information, but the online profile pages that are accessible to all network members are fair game. Thus, if you are a personal injury plaintiff and you post a profile picture of yourself surfing in Hawaii, you can almost count on seeing that picture in Court.

Similarly, if you want to be taken seriously in a business transaction or job search, you don’t want pictures or information conveying a different image on your profile page.

There is a simple solution. In the upper right-hand corner of your profile page is a tab labeled “Account.” Select “Privacy Settings,” then “View Settings,” and set the “Search for you on Facebook” to “Friends Only.” With this setting, only people you have “friended” will be able to see your profile page.

For more information on this issue please contact Linda Calder.