Keep an eye on your Facebook inbox… in the not too distant future, it might contain a summons.
The practice is legally murky, and hasn’t quite gained prominence in the states. But defendants have been successfully served in the UK and Australia, beginning with a foreclosure notice served through the social network down under in 2008. Later, a British woman was served via Facebook after previous attempts to contact her through more traditional methods had failed.
An expert on cyber law in New York says the practice is becoming necessary as individuals increasingly abandon reliance on mail and the telephone in favor of contact through social media:
“There are people who exist only online,” said New York attorney Joseph DeMarco, co-chair of the American Bar Association’s criminal justice cyber crime committee, adding that being able to serve documents by social media could be a useful tool to reach those people.
Even privacy advocates believe the process isn’t that out of order, albeit conceding that a summons in your inbox may not be the highlight of your day:
“There are going to be privacy concerns, but in some respects they’re almost inescapable,” said Mark Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. Someone “is going to be subject to legal service, even though they may not be happy about it. But if they are properly notified the law’s primary concern is addressed,” whether the notice arrived via Facebook or not.
Given the slow march toward acceptance of technology in the courtroom, it’s likely such a push will be a long time coming- but still possible, and perhaps likely. Should Facebook be an option for service of process? Is the medium private enough for such an issue?