Are Social Networks Your Home on the Web?

By Josh Catone
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Here’s a question for you: is your social network profile your home on the web? I don’t mean that in a metaphorical sense, I mean that literally. Is your Facebook or MySpace page a legal, if virtual, extension of your actual place of residence? According to a judge in Australia, the answer is yes.

The New Zealand Herald reports that a Canberra lawyer has ruled that Facebook is a suitable delivery method for serving court documents.

Apparently, an Australian court had previously ruled that a couple would lose their home after defaulting on a loan. Unfortunately for the court and the creditors seeking restitution, serving the couple with legal documents necessary to actually seize the home proved difficult by traditional methods. So a judge ruled that that Facebook was a suitable place to serve them with the documents.

The use of Facebook to serve legal documents is believed to be a first, and other Australian courts, as well as those in other countries, are expected to follow suit where needed. Apparently the traditional way to serve legal documents in Australia involves placing a public notice in the local newspaper classifieds section. Facebook is seen as a modern version of that.

“There’s no reason at all why the courts couldn’t get more modern,” said Auckland, New Zealand District Law Society president Keith Berman.

What do you think? Should social networking profiles really be considered a legal extension of your real-world residence? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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  • me

    That’s exactly the kind of crap a country that lacks a simple Bill of Rights does to it’s citizens. It’s a ridiculous suggestion on the courts behalf that, that is a suitable delivery method. Australia prides itself on being this open society that is so advanced and democratic, when at the end of the day, the government just does as they please, and in this case, so do the courts.

  • roosevelt

    Facebook is just an entertainment. You get to see people, meet people, and watch ads on your left and right.

    So, it’s better to keep it that way.

  • So how long then before we will see people on forums such as this one served with legal papers ?

    Not that anyone who frequents sitepoint has such problems as we all make such huge sums of cash ! :)

  • nachenko

    The problem with this is that, at the same time you get your papers, Facebook gets a copy of them.

    And, who can check that the user that is getting these papers is really me or it’s just using some dude using my computer?

  • Rafael

    I think that it´s not relevant as you don´t sign in with a proof that it´s really you even with a digital signature or any at all, I wouldn ´t tell Facebook a proof of Identity.

  • That’s exactly the kind of crap a country that lacks a simple Bill of Rights does to it’s citizens.

    At least we didn’t elect George Bush as president. :P

  • Stevie D

    Let’s get things in perspective here. The lawyer had tried all the traditional methods of serving the papers, but had been unable to trace or contact the couple. To continue to hunt them through those traditional methods could have been a slow, expensive and ultimately fruitless search; the alternative would have been to give up altogether.

    Using an online service such as Facebook to serve legal documents clearly isn’t ideal, but it works as a means of last resort, which is how it was used in this case. No-one is saying that all legal papers will be sent by Facebook instead of in the post or knocking on someone’s door, but if that is the only known way to contact someone, it will be used.

  • sounds silly

  • Using an online service such as Facebook to serve legal documents clearly isn’t ideal

    No, clearly not because publicity about the move obviously reached the couple before the lawyer got around to sending them a message via Facebook, because by the time he got around to it, they’d changed their privacy settings to prevent receiving messages from non-friends.

  • Anonymous

    because by the time he got around to it, they’d changed their privacy settings to prevent receiving messages from non-friends.

    Perhaps the lawyer could pose as an old friend from school… then WHAM!… lost your house…

  • @Tyssen – That’s funny. I think I’m more concerned with our secret service, who isn’t trained to defend against a thrown shoe at our “president.”

    Let’s add Squidoo to the list. Maybe Plaxo? How bout Twitter? Uhh… maybe some forum entries? While we’re at it, let’s add Sitepoint to the list. I’m sure I’ve made a comment somewhere in the Sitepoint Forums and Blogs that can be used against me in a court of law. Anyone ever complained about a client on Sitepoint?

  • The web is entertainment, plain and simple. If people can take legal action over something on the web, I’m sure people will sue TV and Radio for offensive content next.