Ontario Judge Orders Disclosure Of Facebook Profile

An Ontario judge has ordered a party to a civil litigation case arising from a motor vehicle accident to hand over the contents of their private Facebook profile.  Importantly, the judge ruled that "a party who maintains a private, or limited access, Facebook profile stands in no different position than one who sets up a publicly-available profile."  The judge seems to have arrived at that conclusion based on her understanding of Facebook:

a court can infer from the social networking purpose of Facebook, and the applications it offers to users such as the posting of photographs, that users intend to take advantage of Facebook’s applications to make personal information available to others.  From the general evidence about Facebook filed on this motion it is clear that Facebook is not used as a means by which account holders carry on monologues with themselves; it is a device by which users share with others information about who they are, what they like, what they do, and where they go, in varying degrees of detail.  Facebook profiles are not designed to function as diaries; they enable users to construct personal networks or communities of “friends” with whom they can share information about themselves, and on which “friends” can post information about the user.

Case name is Leduc v. Roman.


  1. Nice precedent!
    Does she use Facebook? Maybe if she did she might reconsider the equation that “privacy” settings are futile and transparent in the eyes of the law, as this sets some very undesirable precedent.

    Your IP logs at your ISP are freely avail to Police without warrant, says a judge. Now even privacy settings on Facebook are not important, all is public? What about emails through Yahoo, Hotmail, or GMail are those public for any judicial system to examine if it helps the prosecution? What about the defense? If the defense determines that a police officer or judge was using Facebook, privately, and leaked information about a case, could that information be held up in court too or is it just for civilians to have such a privilege?

    The UK is pushing for the police to have the power to look through your laptop. And yet this resides inside your home! Suddenly it appears the ‘Net is now being used as a sneaky way to intrude into your home.

    OK, fine, do that, but if an MP or PM or cop or judge screws up in any way shape or form, we can use the same methods on them and see to it they are punished to the full extent of the law. That’s rule of law! Unlikely they’ll allow this “oh, wait a second there, you can’t read my private emails, I’m a judge” sorry buddy, the law applies to EVERYONE! So be careful what precedents you set and really try to understand the ramifications before doing so!

  2. My guess is that the Privacy Commissioner and Facebook may want to take a looke at this. The judge is plainly wrong in this situation. If I want to use Facebook as my own private journal and lock it down for my own use – or even that of my close friends – it does not mean that I ever intend to make that information available to anyone else. Facebook security settings are designed for this.

    By this judge’s logic, all FTP and password-protected sections of a web site would be fair game as well, because they are on the Internet for the purpose of sharing.

  3. Email drafts and private blogs
    And what about email drafts in gmail or hotmail? I definitly keep notes to myself there, but the drafts folder was originally designed for drafts to eventually be sent.

    And what about blogger blogs. I thought about starting a private journal in blogger but only keeping myself as a reader. Can logic like above be applied to a private blogs on a service like blogger?

    I guess I should read the whole ruling…it might not be as bad as it sounds.

  4. well thats fine…
    Prior to making it public, its quite possible to delete every post, every photo and every friend.

  5. We’re In Massive Trouble…
    When a judge, one of the “smartest minds” in our legal system, doesn’t get Facebook. Makes you wonder how many people are in jail who don’t deserve to be there when you read a story like this. Maybe we should make IQ tests a prerequisite for becoming a judge, not just the ability to read and memorize which is what most law students do.

  6. I’m confused
    If you write something down (or otherwise author something), it can be used as evidence in court, even if it was intended to be private and only for your own eyes. What is new here, or specific to facebook?

  7. I’m with Winston on this.
    The plaintiff has voluntarily kept a record of activities that could affect their claim for damages. Here’s hoping they kept separate records of what they weren’t capable of doing.

  8. Even a personal Diary is not secure
    As Winston said, anything you write down can be used as evidence, anything you write online can be used against you in court.
    Even if you lock down information with encryption, they can demand you turn over your password or certificates.
    The only real option is simply not to write or post anything you do not wish to be used against you.

  9. George Smiley says:

    If you don’t write it down ….
    …they’ll still come after you for ‘thought crimes’, Number 6.

    So much for freedom of speech and the right to assemble (in person or transiently in an electronic world).

    The Stasi kept copious volumes of information and innuendo on just about every person in East Germany, which could be and was used against individuals as the unchecked State security apparatus saw fit to do so – with or without political direction. The same will occur in Canada, as it is now occurring in the USA with the NSA and their warrantless intercepts, and in the UK.

    Pretty much all of the rights and liberties which flow from from the Magna Carta are being eroded and destroyed.

  10. So much for Doctor Patient privileges as well.
    Does this also mean that any medical references or records that are sent between doctors and patients via electronic media are also open for scrutiny? While the doctor may be protected by the doctor patient confidentially act, the patient is not, even if the document or medical file was sent by the patient.

  11. McDonalds?
    Maybe we’ll finally find out what they’re putting into their Big Macs and secret sauce! Coke, you’re next! Quick, some one email me the recipy.

  12. You will get the rights you deserve.
    All of you will get the rights you deserve and nothing more. If you roll over and stick your hiney up in the air, you will be screwed and screwed hard.

    If you fight for your rights you have a chance.

    Ask yourself, are you willing to die for your freedom?

    Are you, like U.S. Servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, willing to take the lives of children, women and men … with bombs and guns … for your objectives?

    You deserve the rights you are willing to fight for.

    Sounds like Canadians are rolling over and sticking the old arse up for a buggering, and you deserve it.

    Fight, or be a slave, it’s that simple.

    Whining on the internet only tells them MORE information and tactic to use against you.

    You Canadians got off of 100% oil imports in about 10 years, now importing 0% of your oil, and you whine about your facebook rights well let me tell you, you are going to have to fight and fight a ‘real’ fight.

    If you don’t, you will become more, and more enslaved until one day …

  13. It’s The Reasoning That’s The Problem
    I know a few people have been commenting that anything, even personal diaries, can be used in a court of law. I understand that. But that is not what the judge says in the demand of the password-protected Facebook data. Rather, the demand is based on the (I feel mistaken) belief that everything on Facebook is expected to be openly shared, so the defendant must produce it. That’s not the same thing. I am not a lawyer, but I have to assume that a Judge would set a higher bar on openly revealing private information, such as a diary, than a non-password protected MySpace page.

    My problem is not with the demand to release the information. It’s with the fact that – at least based on my reading of the initial post – the judge either apparently does not fully understand that Facebook can have private areas, or that the judge puts a lesser value on the privacy of social media than that of other personal material.

  14. I disagree with many of the Judge’s observations, but not with his conclusion as it applies to the specific facts of this case.

    This is a motor vehicle accicent case with claims made by the injured party that he can no longer engage in sporting activites and has few friends. He is suing the other party and the other party has a right to challenge those claims by examing evidence that is relevant to those claims.

    I strongly disagree with the Judge’s assertions that “The plaintiff could not have a serious expectation of privacy given that 366 people have been granted access to the private site” and that “A party who maintains a private, or limited access, Facebook profile stands in no different position than one who sets up a publicly-available profile.”

    However, as to his order issued by Justice Brown, I agree with his decision that the defendant should be entitled to cross-examine the plaintiff about the nature of content he posted on his Facebook profile – where it is pertinent to the lawsuit.

    This does not mean that Mr. Leduc has lost all privacy rights associated with the Facebook content that he considered to be private.

    It means only that any photos or other material pertinent to this lawsuit (e.g. showing him engaged in sporting activities) would be open to cross-examination.

    In the context of a lawsuit where Mr. Leduc is claiming significant damages due to injuries, it seems reasonable to me that evidence pertinent to determinnig the real extent of the injuries should be producible in court. To be able to hide such evidence on a claim that it is private and therefore somehow “out of bounds” in the would be harmful to the interests of justice.

    So, in my view, right decision but extremely faulty in obiter comments.

  15. Facebook befuddles many
    One of the posters here noted that the judge doesn’t seem to understand Facebook. She’s not the only one. Veteran U.S. TV personality Matt Lauer interviewed Mark Zuckerberg on NBC’s Today Show and Lauer made it clear he really doesn’t understand Facebook. He asked Zuckerberg about the privacy controversy. Lauer asked what happens if someone cancels his or her Facebook registration. Zuckerberg said words to the effect that “nothing would be shared, going forward.” He did NOT say that the personal data would be wiped from Facebook servers. That would have been the logical followup question, but because Lauer clearly has no idea how a social networking site operates, he simply moved on to some fluff questions.

    You can see the interview at:

    Rob Tripp

  16. I am smelling FRA-lagen in Canada soon

    Hi Michael — I noticed you passed this along without comment on the judge’s reasoning ūüôā What do you make of the reasoning here?

  18. Facebook – A biased view of a person’s life
    Why are people so stupid when it comes to new technology? You only have to look at a non-technology analogy and you’d have the answer. Photos and letters I privately send to friends wouldn’t be allowed. It shouldn’t matter that it’s electronic. If the casual observer can’t see the profile, then it’s not public. So if the other party in the litigation can’t see it, then it shouldn’t be admissible.

    They should fire the judge! While I don’t like the elected judges in the U.S., there doesn’t seem to be any accountability in Canada.

  19. Discovery
    Danger of Judge Brown’s ruling.It allows the defendent[insurer] to unreasonably “manipulate” data to persuade a court’s decision.Example,insinuating pictures of personal injury plaintiff’s activities are frequent,contrary to claim in front of a jury trial.Reality,photos taken may actually be months,or years apart.Once shown to jury,too late,damage is done.Isn’t a “picture worth a thousand words?”

    Insurers have DEEP pockets and their lawyers are paid to do character assassination. Social networking sites can be their best ammunition.

    Obviously if a personal injury plaintiff’s legitimate,they wouldn’t have “social” setting pictures of themselves EVERY weekend,playing recreational sports,etc.

    During discovery,or duration of a legal matter,it is possible to summon the disclosure of ANY and ALL data relevant to a legal matter.

  20. Steven Osborn says:

    How to view private facebook profiles — get this banned!
    This is horrible. Somebody please tell me that this is not possible. Apparently we don’t even need judges any more to get access to private facebook profiles!

  21. Facebook Increased Security
    Latests news are that facebook increased their security and no tricks work anymore.
    There is always an alternative way to view facebook private profile:

  22. How secure is the web?
    Now i see sites like View Private Facebook and such popping up everyday. I am starting to wonder how easy it has become for people to view profiles now. All you have to do is hit a few buttons and bam, they see it all.

  23. was the website inquestion incase anyone was wondering

  24. Who is checking in on our judges in Canada?
    My family and I have recently realized too well how judges in Canada have no accountability. They can make decisions with absolutely no grounds, literally destroying people’s lives and not lose any sleep over it. Our entire community as well as our family is outraged with our current situation where a child has been put in danger, but there seems to be no justice. We funnell thousands of dollars into the legal system and endure endless months of waiting and praying for an appeal court to reverse the decision. Meanwhile, the damage is done. Our question is, why is our system like this? How can a single person (the judge) have so much power and not be held accountable?

  25. it’s quite secure
    But you can still view private facebook profiles at

  26. Canada????…..
    As for the ruling…. Don’t want it known don’t post it….. quite simple really…. even when everyone thought they were protected I still went by that Motto…. As for PatriotAct… Canada….. ????? Just because some judge in Canada has his head up his arse is no reason to stereotype Canadians like that. I have the upmost respect for US, Canada and all other Nato Military organizations just like you do. We have lost service men over in many countries just like everyone else has. My heart goes out to their families. As for the Oil do you not mean Exports? If we kept the “Canadian” Oil here and used it for our own refining needs I am sure we would not be paying close to 1.00 per Litre….. I believe that works out to be approx or close to it 3-4.00 per gallon….. Ouch but that is another topic totally.

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