Ethics and Facebook


Can a lawyer hire a third person to send a “friend request” to a witness? According to an opinion from the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Professional Guidance Committee the answer is no.

Although the information on someone’s Facebook profile is discoverable, a lawyer can’t try to access the page through deception. Although imperfect, I liked this analogy in the Bar Opinion:

The inquirer has suggested that his proposed conduct is similar to the common — and ethical — practice of videotaping the public conduct of a plaintiff in a personal injury case to show that he or she is capable of performing physical acts he claims his injury prevents. The Committee disagrees. In the video situation, the videographer simply follows the subject and films him as he presents himself to the public. The videographer does not have to ask to enter a private area to make the video. If he did, then similar issues would be confronted, as for example, if the videographer took a hidden camera and gained access to the inside of a house to make a video by presenting himself as a utility worker.

This opinion should not affect a workplace from putting a sensible policy in place for dealing with Facebook and other Web 2.0 tools.  Make sure you have a Blogging / Social Internet Policy.


2 Responses to Ethics and Facebook

  1. Carroll Straus May 4, 2009 at 10:54 pm #

    I might ask someone to do this if I thought there was evidence–I had such a case–the tortfeasor was a teen and he had a MySpace page. I asked the dad of my client to see what he could find on MySpace. I did not use it in court– only to evaluate the case.

  2. Jane January 7, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    Facebook has no way to protect a persons character in the case of company pages and ethical practices.
    I think that facebook should come up with a way to handle employer in the case of defamation of character and other kinds of employer abuse on their facebook pages. Employees being on a company page on such popular social network can cause lots of problems for the employee. The real question is how does someone fight something like this if it happens to them? What does facebook have to protect its users?

    here is one I know of: