A Connecticut judge has ordered a divorcing couple to exchange passwords to their Facebook and dating site accounts after lawyers argued they may contain evidence that could be used in the custody dispute.
The unusual order was issued in the course of discovery after attorney's for Stephen Gallion claimed that his soon-to-be ex-wife, Courtney's Facebook account contained evidence that would be useful in his attempt to win full custody of their children.
Judge Kenneth Schluger ordered the password exchange to be between both party's attorneys and cautioned that neither spouse may post or use the passwords to post messages purporting to be the other on any of the sites, according Kashmir Hill's Forbes blog The Not-So Private Parts.
Courntey Gallion is reported to have personal pages on Facebook and MySpace and had created accounts with Match.com and Eharmony, according to various reports.
Stephen Gallion's divorce attorney, Gary Traystman, told Hill that he personally has no email accounts and doesn't use social networking sites, “I see the information people can get from computers, in lawsuits and through hacking,” says Traystman. “They scare the hell out of me.”
Traystman told the Hill that "his client saw a few incriminating things on the computer he shares with his wife at home that made him suspect that there would be more evidence in her social networking accounts. Traystman says there was evidence there of how she feels about her children and her ability to take care of them, and that it would help his client in arguing for full custody."
Initially Courtney refused then provided the account information. She later is alleged to have enlisted a friend's help via text message to change the passwords to the accounts, but eventually surrendered the correct passwords to her attorney. Both parties were ordered by the judge not to delete any information posted on the websites.
The Forbes blogger points out the judge's order violates Facebook's terms of service, which requires users not to share their passwords with anyone. Under the Registration and Account Safety Rights and Responsibilities, users promise to “not share your password, let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account." NewsDze-Zimbabwe says, "Facebook does allow others to collect a user’s information if they are given express consent."
Hill said, "Being forced to hand over social networking passwords seems highly privacy-invasive given the ability to then root around for whatever one wants in an account, but the Gallions are certainly not the first to be subjected to this and likely won’t be the last."