Legally, there are no court rules, statutes, or laws that specifically prevent you from searching for a subject’s social networking profile. However, there are laws against direct contact with a subject who is represented by counsel. Thus, you should never contact a subject, represented or not, over their social networking page. If a subject has set the privacy settings to prevent you from accessing the information on his or her page, do not send them a friend request! In addition to violating court rules, your investigation will not yield the type of results you are looking for if the subject is aware of your access to his or her page.

Additionally, do not ask a third party to contact a witness or the subject to request access to the subject page. In a civil case, an attorney contacted the third party and asked the person to send a friend request to a witness. This third party did not identify why the request was being made. An informal ethics opinion was then issued finding that this was unacceptable behavior. Thus, the best rule of thumb is to only access information that is available to you without having to send a friend request.


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