Court of Appeal: No Privacy on Myspace

Myspace, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. are fertile sources of information about employees and job applicants. The phenomenon of otherwise private individuals airing out their grievances, sharing personal information, etc. continues unabated. The phenomenon of the same individuals' shock and surprise that people actually read their stuff and hold it against them continues as well.

In a non-employment matter, the Court of Appeal addressed whether an essay on myspace was private such that republishing it in a newspaper without the author's permission constituted an invasion of privacy. Umm no.

Moreno was from the small town of Coalinga. After she left town, she wrote an essay about her disdain for her hometown. She neglected to consider that folks who remained in Coalinga might get offended. Her principal forwarded the posting to the local newspaper, which published it as a Letter to the Editor. And of course, although Moreno's last name is not on her myspace page, the principal helpfully supplied it.

Now Moreno also forgot that her family still lived in Coalinga, and operated a small business there. The fans of Coalinga were miffed by Moreno's letter, and drove the family out of business and out of town. She chose to sue the newspaper and principal rather than herself. No word whether her family sued her.

The Court of Appeal, upholding the trial court, held that when you post on myspace, it's not "private." As such there is no invasion of "privacy" when you use the posted information or disclose it to others. Without a private fact, there is no tort of invasion of privacy.

Interestingly, the Court of Appeal also held, albeit in an unpublished portion of the decision, that Ms. Moreno could proceed against the defendants for intentional infliction of emotional distress, possibly because of the fact that the principal intentionally supplied the posting to the newspaper out of spite? No clue. Simply reading the information and relying on it on the job may or may not supply the requisite "outrageous conduct" required for IIED. My bet is" not."

So, at least based on this case, if you put your private information out on the INtRaw3Bs, your employer is not invading your privacy by reading it. The case is Moreno v. Hanford Sentinel and the opinion is here.