Today, in Facebook Failure: Jersey Schoolteachers and Connecticut Divorcees

Great for your life, except when it's not.
As Facebook loses ground on its battles with the FTC over user privacy settings, the world should keep in mind that it doesn’t matter, because people can still ruin their lives using Facebook regardless of privacy controls. Because they are stupid. And Facebook’s most refined technological innovation is its unprecedented ability to facilitate the digital expression of this stupidity, which can sometimes have consequences in the real world.

In Paterson, New Jersey—a predominately Latino and African-American city with a median family income just north of $32,000 (and what Reuters described as a “high rate of violent crime“)—an administrative judge ruled that a teacher could very well be fired for something she posted to Facebook. And what would a first-grade teacher post to Facebook that would get her fired? Via Reuters, well, this:

[Jennifer] O’Brien, a teacher in Paterson since 1998, has been on administrative leave since March when she wrote on Facebook: “I’m not a teacher – I’m a warden for future criminals!” She testified that she wrote the comment after one of her first graders hit her and others stole money from her. Although the comment was intended for her 333 Facebook friends, it was forwarded to other readers and within days school administrators and parents had seen it and were outraged.

She only has 333 Facebook friends, one of which is totally a tattletale. Actually, one of which is probably no longer her Facebook friend. At least one. One would hope.

Elsewhere, in Connecticut, a judge decided to open up a whole nasty can of worms when he decided a wife and a husband getting a divorce and battling over custody of their children must—wait for it—give their Facebook passwords to their lawyers for trial discovery. Lawyers who, of course, won’t let their clients see what’s on their former spouses’ Facebook accounts and dating sites. Supposedly. Maybe. Kashmir Hill at Forbes reported earlier this week:

In “normal” discovery, a litigant is usually asked to turn over “responsive material” not the keys to access all that material and more, but it seems that judges are applying different standards to social networking accounts. Lawyer and tech blogger Venkat Balasubramani has written about several other civil cases 1) where judges have issued similar orders, including a personal injury case, 2) where judges have taken it upon themselves to sign into someone’s Facebook account and look for evidence, 3) as well as cases where judges have smacked down lawyers who asked for opposing litigants’ passwords, as in an insurance case involving State Farm.

She also took noted that this kind of order actually violates Facebook’s Terms of Service, but despite the judge’s orders for the parties to not log in as one another and post things, this will not end well. This can not end well.

So, there you go: two more ways Facebook can facilitate awfulness with or without your silly privacy settings. Now go cheer on the FTC and post something about your political views on your wall. It will probably end well.

Today, in Facebook Failure: Jersey Schoolteachers and Connecticut Divorcees