Judge to couple in custody dispute: Trade website passwords

A judge in Connecticut recently ordered a divorcing couple to divulge their passwords used on social networking sites in order for him to gain access and knowledge that might relate to the decision of child custody.

Judge Kenneth Shluger regarded his order as part of the “discovery” portion of the case. He is one of a growing list of judges in states across the country, including Georgia, who consider information posted on social networking sites relevant. Some judges have logged into Facebook and network dating services to gain information that is potentially relevant in cases before them.

An attorney for one of the parties in the case before Shluger said, “I see the information people can get from computers, in lawsuits and through hacking. They scare the hell out of me.”

When first asked to give up her password, the wife contacted a friend, asking her to change passwords and delete messages. The judge then issued an injunction preventing the actions. Both clients were required to exchange all passwords with each other’s attorney.

Although discovery requests and responses to them are standard in lawsuits and divorces, more attorneys and judges are broadly requesting personal information from clients to gain access to social networking accounts.

Most personal dating services and social networks — such as Facebook — frown on the practice, which they perceive as a violation of their clients’ privacy and their product’s terms of service.

The judge in the Connecticut case also ordered the couple not to “prank” each other’s accounts after the passwords were exchanged (falsely assume the identity of the other to post messages).

Source: Forbes, “Judge orders divorcing couple to swap Facebook and dating site passwords” Nov. 7, 2011

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