August 24, 2016 Articles

Living in a Cyber World: Avoiding Pitfalls While Using Social Media in Investigations

By Lily Chinn

Social media are an integral part of everyday life. Thus, they provide a source of significant information that companies can use in a variety of ways, from screening candidates for employment to conducting internal investigations. Unfortunately, there is no single federal law governing privacy concerns, third-party access, and ethical issues related to the use of social media by companies or their lawyers. Instead, there is a patchwork of federal statutes, agency rulings, bar opinions, terms of use for specific sites, and state laws addressing various aspects of the use of social media. Though this lack of continuity presents challenges, there are proactive steps counsel and companies can take to avoid pitfalls when conducting investigations involving social media. Of critical importance, these steps include identifying key legal boundaries in accessing social media and best practices to implement in light of new legal rulings and changing technology. 

What Are Social Media?
Social media are any electronic medium that allows users to create, share, or view user-generated content, such as videos, photographs, blogs, podcasts, messages, emails, and web profiles. The most recognized and commonly used social media include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumbler, YouTube, Vine, SnapChat, Reddit, Kik, and WhatsApp. There are, however, countless others, with new technology being developed every day.  

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