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You’ve Been Served! via Facebook

08
Jun
2011

facebook_logoThere are people who might as well be nonexistent if not for their online presence. It’s a weird sort of reality, something that we wouldn’t think we’d see outside those paperback sci-fi novels. It’s also a problem that courts have to face on a daily basis when it comes to serving official documents. It’s extremely difficult to pin some people down in the real world because they simply don’t seem to be anywhere. But, go online, visit Facebook, and you’ll find them there, posting about inane things like what they had for lunch or about the movie they watched just recently. As such, courts have considered serving them their legal documents through E-mail or perhaps through Facebook.

Facebook as a Legal Avenue

Using social media in order to keep the cases moving may sound like a really silly idea, and yet there are some countries that have already adopted this policy. It all started out in Australia, where one lawyer caused quite a commotion by sending a foreclosure notice through Facebook. There were people asking whether it was legal for him to do so or not. There was, however, no law specifically prohibiting it. The effectiveness of the action also drew quite a lot of criticism away from the act, and it was since then adopted by several countries as a method to serve legal documents. Some lawyers have even suggested that the US may adopt this process as well.

The Downside

Of course, the method may raise a lot of complaints from people in general, and the number one cry would no doubt be “privacy”. Does the process really violate our privacy? According to experts, no, it doesn’t. US documents are already public, so whether they are served in person or through social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, it wouldn’t really make much of a difference. Furthermore, the court’s concern is that people are notified about what the law requires of them. Problem is, people don’t usually like hearing what the law wants from them, and here the dragon rears its ugly head.

There are some kinks that need to be worked out, however, and king among them is the issue of verification. Courts have to ask whether the person they’re sending to is the right one. They need to tell one John Smith from another without breaking ethical practices, meaning that they somehow have to identify their target accurately without having to use underhanded means such as friending a person in order to get past strict privacy settings.

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