In camera

According to Wikipedia, the legal phrase in camera "describes court cases (or portions thereof) that the public and press are not admitted to."

WW2Men-ServiceMags-EvidenceinCamera (1)In camera may be where one's cell phones and social media account passwords go, when one gets pulled into the discovery process of a court case. (Also from Wikipedia: "discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the opposing party by means of discovery devices including requests for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions and depositions.")

Or at least you hope your stuff gets unpacked in camera.

Evan Brown posted yesterday about a case in which a trial judge ordered a defendant to turn over his iPhone to the lawyer for his former employer.

But the trial court, Evan tells us, was overruled by an appeals court:

"The appellate court found that the lower court’s order that defendant turn over his iPhone was beyond the scope of plaintiff’s request and was too broad for the needs of the case. Ordering production of defendant’s iPhone (which, the court observed, has built-in applications and internet access) 'was tantamount to ordering the production of his computer.' The iPhone would disclose irrelevant information that might include privileged communications or confidential information."

Venkat Balasubramani posted yesterday, too, about a couple of cases in which courts ordered similar in camera review for discovery purposes.

At least one of those rulings required parties to turn over passwords to Facebook accounts, something Venkat argues "should be completely off the list" of what a court would order people to do. Venkat reasons:

"Apart from the fact that this results in disclosure of or access to the entire contents of the account (including information that is not relevant or information that is covered by the Stored Communications Act) it may result in unwitting changes to the account. Facebook offers export functionality. . . . Presumably other sites offer something similar. If not, the litigant can manually export the information. Either way, courts should never take the password turnover route."

I had a quick peek at the court's written order in one of the cases Venkat blogged about. The list of things ordered turned over is pretty sobering:

"1. Any cell phone used to send or receive text messages from January 1, 2009 to the present;
"2. All necessary information to access any social media websites used by such person for the time period January 1, 2009 to present;
"3. All necessary information to access any email account or web blog or similar/related electronically accessed internet or remote location used for communicating with others or posting communications or pictures, during the time period January 1, 2009 to present."

Image from Naval-History.Net.


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