As people become more sophisticated with social media use, it becomes harder and harder for lawyers to collect social media evidence in their cases. When opposing parties and witnesses use privacy settings, they shield their photos and other social media content from the public use. As a result, some attorneys, paralegals, and investigators have created fake profiles for the purposes of sending a friend request in hopes to access that private social media information. But creating fake profiles could be disastrous for your law firm.
We are seeing more and more attorneys, paralegals, and most often investigators creating a “fake profile” using someone else’s name or photograph in hopes that that opposing party or witness would accept the friend request so they can get access to that private social media evidence.
Dangers of Creating a Fake Profiles for Social Media Investigations
When opposing parties and witnesses shield their content with privacy settings, some attorneys are inclined to send a friend request in order to get access to their social media information. Doing so could be problematic. First, if the opposing party or witness is represented by counsel, you may be violating the ethics rule prohibiting communication with a represented party by merely sending a friend request – even if there is no further communication between you and the represented party.
Even if the witness is not represented by counsel, people are smart these days and they know sometimes not to accept a friend request from an attorney they don’t know. It’s therefore difficult for you as the attorney to get access to this private social media evidence by sending a friend request from your personal profile.
As a result, we are seeing more and more attorneys, paralegals, and most often investigators creating a “fake profile” using someone else’s name or photograph in hopes that that opposing party or witness would accept the friend request so they can get access to that private social media evidence. But this could be incredibly problematic because it violates not one, but two legal ethics rules.
Fake Profiles Violate Legal Ethics Rules
First, sending a friend request from a fake profile violates the rule prohibiting misconduct and deception. Creating a fake profile constitutes trickery because you are deceiving the witness or the opposing party as to who you are and therefore you violate the rule prohibiting misconduct.
Secondly, by using a fake profile and not telling people who your identity is or the reason for sending that friend request, you are withholding material information from that witness. You would therefore violate the rule called truthfulness in statements to others. This is the ultimate sin – meaning it’s bad enough to create a fake profile to collect evidence – but in communicating with that witness or that opposing party under false pretenses, you are engaging in serious ethical misconduct. To make matters worse, if an associate, paralegal, or perhaps an investigator that you hired does this on your behalf, you could be held responsible for that conduct because they are your agent.
So, how can you and your law firm get access to social media evidence that’s behind privacy settings without violating the legal ethics rules? The answer is to work with SMI Aware.
SMI Aware Conducts Ethical Social Media Investigations
SMI Aware’s team of independent social media investigation experts can get you the social media evidence you need in a manner that complies with the legal ethics rules. SMI Aware’s proprietary application and software leaves no stone unturned, making sure that you collect all the evidence that you need in each of your cases. Best of all, SMI Aware uses the same techniques, the same processes, and the same tools every time to make sure that your law firm is in compliance with the legal ethics rules.
As a result, your law firm can collect that private social media evidence that it needs in each of its cases, without worrying that someone on your behalf is going to be violating the legal ethics rules. So, what are you waiting for? You owe it to yourself to collect that private social media evidence in all of your cases, in an ethical manner. Contact SMI Aware today to begin collecting social media evidence in all of your cases in an ethically compliant manner.